Attorney, judge mentors celebrated

More than 100 law students have been matched with mentors from the Oregon Department of Justice, Marion and Yamhill County circuit courts, Salem-area law firms and other legal organizations, said Phylis Myles, director of the Office of Career and Professional Development, at a reception celebrating mentors and the students they advise.

 Willamette’s mentoring program was the first of its kind in Oregon when it began in 1991, Dean Peter Letsou said. “We’re extremely proud of how the program has grown and prospered, and we look forward to the next decade,” he added.

 Some of the longest-serving mentors in the program include Tom Elden, a retired lawyer from the Oregon Department of Justice; Elizabeth Harchenko JD ’76, former director of the Oregon Department of Revenue; and Marion County Circuit Court Judge Mary James.

 Marion County Circuit Court Judge Claudia Burton, who was named “Mentor of the Year” last spring, emphasized the importance of mentoring – even if the mentor is a young lawyer only a few years out of law school. James urged students not to be afraid to question their mentors, even if their inquiries seemed silly.

 “No crisis is too embarrassing to share,” she told the students. “Make contact. Don’t be shy about engaging with each other. Law school can be discouraging; it can be demoralizing; and it can be dehumanizing. Having a mentor changes that.”