Liani Reeves is an assistant attorney general at the Oregon Department of Justice.
VIDEO: Liani Reeves '98, JD'01 discusses the influence of her Willamette education on her career as an attorney. (1:15)
Willamette graduate finds success in her career and the community
Liani Reeves '98, JD'01 takes the idea that there aren't enough hours in a day to a new level.
She spends her days at the Oregon Department of Justice, defending the state in employment cases. But she doesn't just call it a day after work and head home.
After hours she leads the Oregon Commission on Asian Affairs, advising the governor and state on issues impacting the Asian community. She also participates in networking and educational events through the Oregon Minority Lawyers Association.
As if that's not enough, Reeves finds time to mentor minority law students who are seeking advice on school and their future careers.
"I have no idea how Liani balances it all," says Emi Torres JD'10, one of Reeves's mentees. "She has inspired me to also become involved in the community."
Her hard work caught the eye of the Portland Business Journal in February when it named her one of its Forty Under 40, an award that recognizes high-caliber young executives for career and community achievement.
"I was born in Korea and adopted by an American family, and that gave me many privileges," Reeves says. "I've always had a great sense of gratitude to the community and the country that took me in, which is why I want to give back."
Leading at Willamette
Reeves's busy schedule stretches back to her days at Willamette University. As an undergraduate majoring in religious studies and minoring in English, she led projects to improve campus security and to increase awareness of sexual assault and alcohol issues.
"Being empowered to make changes at the university level taught me a lot that I use today as I make change in my community and the government," she says.
Reeves built on her Willamette experience by enrolling in the College of Law, where she joined the Multicultural Law Students Association, participated in moot court and planned a university-wide Martin Luther King Jr. celebration — all while earning what she calls a "solid legal education.""Willamette's legal research and writing program is outstanding, and those skills are at the core of what lawyers do. The relationships I developed with faculty in the law profession helped me get to where I am today."
A Public Servant
After graduation, Reeves worked for two years at the Oregon Department of Justice Honors Program before joining the National Crime Victim Law Institute.
She studied cases of sexual violence against women and worked to strike down laws that negatively impacted victims.
"Victims traditionally have not been well-represented in the criminal or civil justice systems, and they need a legal voice to help them assert their rights," Reeves says.
Five years ago, she returned to the Department of Justice as an assistant attorney general in the Trial Division. This past January, she also was appointed to a management position as assistant to the chief trial counsel. Reeves supervises the division's law clerks and manages a variety of special projects, including electronic discovery, technology and mentoring.
Her Salem office faces the Oregon Supreme Court building — and the Willamette campus where she spent her formative years.
"Being at Willamette gives you a lot of opportunities to hop across the street and see what's going on at the Capitol or the Supreme Court. That proximity to the government is valuable, especially if you want to be a public servant."
Dedication to Mentoring
Reeves's location also provides her easy access to the law students she mentors.
"Liani provides great insight into the practice of law while also giving me a lot of personal support," Jennifer Kwon JD'11 says. "I'm impressed by Liani's active involvement in the Oregon legal community. She inspires me to make positive contributions in my own legal career."
"I was mentored by a number of attorneys who made sure I had the skills and support I needed," Reeves says. "Many younger attorneys don't get that, especially attorneys who are diverse and may not feel as comfortable in a traditional profession like law. It's important to me to make them feel welcome."