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Voices 2014

Battling for Diversity on the Western Front

When people think about the State of Oregon the average non-Oregonian imagines picturesque wilderness, Portland, hipsters, coffee, and craft beer. A place of progressive ideals and a self-described weirdness that is the identity of the rose city. This is what I thought when I moved from Washington to Oregon for law school, but it didn't take long to find out that "Portlandia" was not representative of the state. By and large, despite being sandwiched between Washington and California, Oregon is perhaps the least diverse state on the west coast. It is home to the smallest bar association on the west coast and the issue of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession is especially important. Culture shock would be an appropriate term to describe the adjustment required when moving from Seattle to Salem. Going from an institution that was incredibly diverse to a legal community with a staggeringly small number of diversity, and specifically APA, lawyers, judges, and law students.

While programs for diversity and inclusion were abundant and robust, the reality was that the jurisdiction I had entered struggled with this issue. With APAs becoming one of the fastest growing minority groups in Oregon the need for APA law students and lawyers was apparent, at least to me. Then I was introduced to NAPALSA. I attended the National Convention in Washington D.C. without having a clue what it was about. I was unaware of NAPALSA prior to law school but after attending I realized that a NAPALSA Affiliate was exactly what we needed back home and with support from our local NAPABA Affiliate and the NAPALSA board I made it my goal to try to bring the message of NAPALSA back with me to Salem.

It began as an idea to promote APA interests and started off as a whisper among APA law students. The idea of APALSA was nothing more than passing conversations in the hall for months. It began as nothing more than a dream. As I spoke with my classmates and colleagues the dream began to take shape and in a period of a few months a group of first-year students had somehow managed to come together to form a board. We drafted a constitution and wrote letters and appeared before our Student Bar Association and we plunged into the unknown of re-starting and reviving our APALSA Affiliate.

As Willamette APALSA celebrates its second year of activity, I look back at all that our Affiliate has accomplished. In its short two years we have helped host a Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration by bringing in a panel of diversity judges and practitioners to discuss the impact of Dr. King's dream on the legal profession. We have helped coordinate volunteer efforts for the NAPABA Western Regional Conference hosted by the Oregon Asian Pacific American Bar Association. Willamette APALSA became the first law school in Oregon to host the Thomas Tang Moot Court Northwest Regional Competition in Portland, Oregon.

APALSA has been a great vehicle for change at Willamette and has helped advocate for the interests and celebrate the accomplishments of the APA community. While Oregon remains a battleground for minorities, Willamette APALSA continues to stand on the front line as a champion for diversity and change.

Tucker R. Kraght
NAPALSA Pacific-North Regional Co-Director 2013, Public Relations Director 2014
Willamette APALSA Founder, President 2013-2014, Fundraising Chair 2014-2015
Willamette University College of Law, Salem, Oregon
J.D. Candidate 2015

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