“There’s something voyeuristic about family law,” said Katie L. Archer, a member of the Class of 2011. “As a lawyer, you’re entrusted with people’s personal information. If they trust you with that, then you need to use it to your advantage — to help them as best you can.”
Archer learned about the responsibilities that come with representing clients while working in the law school’s Family and Child Advocacy Clinic. “Understanding clients’ personal circumstances makes me work harder to find solutions for them,” she said.
Archer said she was drawn to family law by an interest in family dynamics. In addition to two biological siblings, she was raised alongside several foster siblings. “I’m the middle child, the peacekeeper,”
she explained. “Over the years, I learned it is OK to have disputes as long as they’re productive.”
A native of Vancouver, Wash., Archer learned from her family the importance of hard work. “My family is working class, so I have a strong work ethic and great appreciation for things I’ve earned,” said
Archer, who paid her way through junior college by working numerous odd jobs, including a yearlong stint as a nanny in Hawaii and France.
“The money and travel opportunities that came with the job were things I had never experienced before,” she said. “I realized that if I worked hard enough, I could bridge the gap between those two worlds.”
When she returned home, Archer enrolled in a full-time prelaw-oriented program at Washington State University. She also landed internships with the Clark County Board of Commissioners and the Clark County Civil Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, where she tackled a number of issues related to residential zoning restrictions and water quality standards. In May 2005, she graduated with a B.A. in public affairs administration and management.
Following college, Archer worked as an office manager to earn money for law school. After applying to a number of West Coast schools, she selected Willamette University College of Law. “I came to Willamette for a spring orientation, and everything just clicked,” she said. “It just felt like the right place for me.”
Archer entered WUCL in the fall of 2008 and immediately became interested in family law practice. She enrolled in the Family and Child Advocacy Clinic both semesters of her second year. During that time, she represented real clients in a range of family law cases, including a complicated modification of child support case. “It was highly complex due to the case history,” she explained. “It involved criminal and administrative law, jurisdiction issues and family law. It ran the gamut of all the courses I had taken so far.”
She credits Professor Warren H. Binford, director of the Clinical Law Program, with teaching her best practices of family law. “I knew I needed to develop a certain skill set, so I asked Professor Binford to push me — and I’m better for it. I learned a lot about case management.”
In addition to working in the clinic, Archer has been active in a number of student activities. In the spring of 2010, she was elected Student Bar Association president, the official representative and spokesperson for Willamette law students before the faculty, administration, and external legal and civic communities. “I thrive on being involved in leadership positions,” she said. “It is not a strategy for building my resume; it’s just who I am.”
Giving back is important to the 3L. “It’s our responsibility to serve the greater community in some respect,” said Archer, who said that belief is shared by many others in her class. “My law class is really special,” she said. “We truly care about people and the community. We want to make the world a better place.
“I know that in years ahead when I return for class reunions, I will be shaking the hands of many civic and bar leaders.”
— Anne Marie Becka