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West Coast Leading Lady

“I knew being editor in chief was an important job, so at first I was intimidated about taking on such an important responsibility,” said Hanley Smith, the 2006 editor in chief of Willamette Law Review. “I didn’t want the position for any prestige. For me, it was a way to challenge myself with a position of leadership. It was a great opportunity to coordinate a number of people and projects all at once and to represent our school’s journal.”

As editor in chief, Smith is responsible for managing all components of the publication — from overseeing the journal budget to ensuring the staff hits its deadlines. Despite the pressure that comes with producing four issues a year, she said the journal staff has remained easygoing and collegial. “We all understand how important it is not to take ourselves too seriously,” she noted. “Regardless of our specific jobs, we’re all in the same position. We’re all trying to produce a top-quality journal. We all feel the responsibility of what the school has trusted us to do.”

Willamette Law Review, the college’s oldest law journal, was first published in 1959. The journal provides topical legal scholarship on issues of interest to lawyers throughout the Pacific Northwest and the nation. Although the journal traditionally includes articles written by prominent attorneys and judges, Smith said the staff also tries to include at least one or two student pieces.

Smith said her background in the humanities has provided a strong foundation for her legal studies. After earning an undergraduate degree in comparative literature from San Diego State University, she briefly considered becoming an English teacher. While deciding whether to go into education or law, she took a job teaching English to international students at a community college. Although she enjoyed the experience, it reinforced her “gut belief” that she was not cut out for a career in education. “I imagined what my career would be like as a teacher,” she said. “I just didn’t know how long that would fulfill me. I enjoyed literature, but I felt that it wasn’t relevant to the outside world, that I wouldn’t be able to make much of an impact if I focused on that.”

Smith soon set her sights on law school. “My writing and editing background has been a perfect fit for law,” she said. Smith’s parents supported her decision. “They always told me that things are worth doing if they add to what you can contribute in life and don’t take away from who you are,” she explained. “They believe law school has been a positive addition to my life.”

Although her parents were equally enthusiastic when she ran for editor in chief of Willamette Law Review, her mother worried about how she would handle the stress. “I’ve always been competitive with myself, but that’s different,” she said. “Personally, it’s OK if I let myself down. I just didn’t want to let anyone else down.”

While working on the journal has increased her knowledge of the law, Smith said she has learned something far more important while attending Willamette — the value of a professional education. “I’ve learned how to act like a lawyer, how to interact with people in a firm and with clients,” she said. “In law school, you learn how to do the job of an attorney, but you also learn how to act like a professional. That’s been extremely helpful to me.”

Smith said she will carry that knowledge with her long after she returns to California, where she hopes to take up plaintiff’s work in employment and labor law. “Regardless of where I eventually end up 10 years from now,” she said, “I know my law school degree will be a great foundation for me.”


Hanley SmithHanley Smith

“Regardless of where I eventually end up 10 years from now, I know my law school degree will be a great foundation for me.”

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