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Willamette Law launches its inaugural immersion externship

by Jessica Rotter,

Alaska landscape where immersion externship is held
Zach Forrester
Zach Forrester JD'23

Zach Forrester JD'23 was working as a barista in Washington before law school when a customer encouraged him to look into Willamette Law. A Willamette Law alum, the customer shared their experience and Forrester was inspired to apply. This serendipitous encounter led Forrester to Willamette Law and on to the inaugural immersion externship in Alaska. 

When he began at the law school, Forrester was interested in a number of different areas of law, and most specifically civil rights, the working of the court system, and litigation. He began to think about how he might build a career potentially in the federal courts. Entering into his 3L year, Willamette Law Dean Brian Gallini threw out an idea, Forrester could finish his final year of school on site in Alaska, completing an externship and taking his final courses remotely. The wheels began turning and before long, Forrester was connected with Judge Joshua Kindred JD'05, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska. 

“I owe this opportunity to Dean Gallini, he set this up for me and helped through every stage of the process,” Forrester says. “What excites me most about this opportunity is getting to see how a federal court works on a day to day basis, from right in the middle of things. I get to develop new skills outside of the classroom and learn from people on the ground.” 

Forrester credits the externship with better developing his writing skills. His law school education has provided a strong foundation for writing memos and briefs, but the externship has taken this a step further in developing his skills. “Writing from the point of view of decision-maker involves a huge switch, and this opportunity has allowed me to grow not only as a writer, but also in how I think about writing,” he shares. 

In addition to these writing skills, Forrester has been able to build up a more solid knowledge of the foundations of law. Depending on the day, and the types of cases, he could be “working on a criminal law project one day, an insurance issue the next, and a niche rule of federal procedure after that,” he says. 

Overall, Forrester shares that he hopes this externship experience helps him to learn and grow, not just for the sake of a career but also as a thinker. “Thinking through big problems and being where a lot of action is in our country will help me to grow personally and professionally,” he says. 

Judge Joshua Kindre
Judge Joshua Kindred JD'05

Kindred chose Willamette Law because it reminded him of the same “small-town vibe” of his hometown, Anchorage, Alaska. Kindred spent most of his time after graduation looking for the right professional fit for his skills and, also, a role that made him happy. Mentorship, particularly from the Honorable Paul De Muniz JD'75, and the courage to try a number of career paths is ultimately what led Kindred to where his career is today.

“An important part of the journey through law school and beyond is knowing how to make the right decisions for yourself, armed with knowledge and confidence. It’s also recognizing that decisions aren’t permanent, you can change where you work and what field you want to practice in. Recent law graduates don’t always see this,” Kindred reflects. 

After experiencing firsthand how abrupt the transition from academia to professional practice can be, Kindred hopes that he can find ways to help ease this transition for future generations of law students. This is a large reason why he wanted to be involved in the inaugural immersion externship with Forrester. 

“When I receive a call from Willamette Law to get involved, I will always answer that call. I owe a debt of gratitude to the school for my own education and I am always eager to help bright and talented future lawyers.” Kindred says. When he heard that Dean Gallini was hoping to send Forrester to extern with Kindred, he jumped at the opportunity. 

Kindred’s goal for what he hopes Forrester learns is first and foremost, “what it truly looks like to be a lawyer,” he says. Bridging the gap between law school and practice is an important step in helping Forrester, and ideally future law students too, set himself up for professional success and expedite his career trajectory. 

This immersion externship will provide an opportunity for Kindred to introduce Forrester to a new set of skills that can be lacking in a traditional law school education. Allowing a student to study remotely, spend dedicated time immersed in legal practice, and build connections with the legal community is something that is unparalleled in terms of experience. 

“This is how law school should work. Students should learn in the classroom and then have a chance, under the guidance of lawyers and professors, to step fully into what it means to be a lawyer while still in a safe and supportive environment,” says Kindred. 

In terms of what he hopes this immersion externship will accomplish, Kindred is looking forward to seeing Forrester’s career unfold and to have the opportunity to mentor him throughout the entirety of a career, not just at the beginning. He also hopes this immersion externship helps to shed light on the unique legal community in Alaska. 

Between the immersion externship, and Willamette Law’s 4+3 partnership with Alaska’s public universities, Kindred is eager for people to see the opportunities available in Alaska. “We want to give these talented and intelligent lawyers a reason to come to Alaska and make a difference here,” says Kindred. All too often, Kindred saw talented lawyers leave Alaska in search of opportunities elsewhere. His hope is that the continued opportunities for partnership between Alaska and Willamette Law will help to expand and strengthen the legal community. 

For his part, Kindred strives to continue supporting this immersion externship program throughout his time on the bench. He wants the program to exist in perpetuity and to continue to create opportunities for mentorship. 

Forrester will complete his Spring semester in Alaska completing his externship. After graduation, he will remain in Alaska for one year as he has accepted a position as a Law Clerk for the Alaska Court of Appeals in Anchorage. 

As the inaugural immersion externship has proven to be a valuable experience for both Kindred and Forrester, Willamette Law looks forward to expanding the program to locations across the country. This unique program will provide opportunities for talented students to gain hands-on experience while connecting to meaningful placements in a variety of geographic locations.

About Willamette University College of Law

Willamette University College of Law was the first law school to open in the Pacific Northwest. Building on deep historic roots, we focus with pride on educating the next generation of problem-solving lawyers and leaders. Our location in Salem, Oregon, directly across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and Supreme Court, cannot be matched in the region. Our thought-leading scholars advance and promote our shared responsibility to make a difference in society, placing justice, fairness, and equality at the heart of everything we do.

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