Consider that a student who expects to graduate law school this year will have spent most of their education amid a global pandemic. Their legal academia would have taken place during historic global protests, a historic attack on the U.S. Capitol building, and the reversal of massively controversial legal precedent. In all, law students today are looking at a world full of inflation and, arguably, some of the greatest challenges for our legal system in modern history.
Each year, the Washington State Bar Association partners with our state’s three law schools and selects a law student representative from each. These student representatives both serve as liaisons who communicate issues facing students to the WSBA, and who share WSBA resources with their fellow students.
Read on to meet the 2022-2023 law school representatives and learn what they plan to do with their roles and what they expect to see from their fellow classmates and future lawyers.
Russell Johnson, University of Washington
As the son of lawyers and a former employee of the WSBA, it would be hard to bring more of an insider perspective to this role than that of Russell Johnson.
Now entering his second year of law school, Johnson previously worked for five years as the WSBA’s Outreach and Legislative Affairs Coordinator.
“I’m happy to be a resource to my peers as someone that knows the WSBA from the inside,” Johnson said. “I’ve already had the opportunity to answer a number of my classmates’ questions, and I look forward to monitoring and reporting back on any WSBA matters that concern the student community.”
Since he was a kid, Johnson said he wanted to be a lawyer, but his self-admitted “independent streak” — at least initially — nudged him off his parents’ paths.
“[B]ut here I am,” Johnson said. “I really enjoy problem solving like a lawyer. I like reading, researching, analyzing, writing, and advocating a certain point of view. This is also why I chose to be a history major. It essentially relies on the same skills. In my career I want to help people, and law school and the legal profession felt like the best and most fulfilling way to do that.”
Johnson has so far participated in UW Law School’s moot court appellate advocacy competition, which he plans to do again. And while he’s still undecided about which area of laws he wants to practice, “I know that what matters to me is feeling that my work is having a meaningful and positive impact.”
He believes more flexibility and innovation in the law are key in driving forward the legal profession and the next generation of legal professionals.
“I think one of the main issues is the legal profession’s resistance to change,” Johnson said. “There’s a certain formula and rigidity to so many aspects of the work. This works as a way to simplify and streamline, keeping up with the culture of overwork, but it can stifle creative thinking and creative problem solving.”
Regarding his classmates, Johnson said, “I think Millennials and Gen Z place a special emphasis on work/life balance. I think one major priority for younger lawyers is to practice in a way that allows them to have more personal and family time. The cost of a legal education today is also a major issue. So many law students enter school planning to do public interest work but are driven away from that work in favor of higher paying jobs which can feel necessary to pay off their loans.”
However, he added, “We’re resilient.”
Tiffany S. Diener, Seattle University
When Tiffany Diener thinks of the things that most affect her and her fellow classmates at Seattle University School of Law, she thinks about “[a] shared uncertainty of what’s to come.
“Recent legal decisions have placed a number of human rights at risk causing alarm for many students who are ready to go forward and advocate to protect the rights now threatened,” Diener explained.
It was those very rights that inspired Diener to want to become a lawyer in the first place. She chose to go to law school “[t]o advocate for social justice and highlight understanding of diversity and equity, [to] see people as individuals and acknowledge that we are imperfect. I want to become an attorney and use it as a tool to make a positive change in peoples’ lives.”
But before graduating law school and passing the bar exam, Diener saw in the WSBA Young Lawyers Division Representative program an opportunity to help her classmates ahead of when she hopes to help her clients.
Diener joined the WSBA young lawyers’ program because she sees it as “a great resource” and a way to “liaison between the WSBA members and Seattle U Law students to help interested students get involved in creating mentorship opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and networking with new and young lawyers in Washington.”
“I really look forward to helping each other grow through a sharing of resources and information that will help others in the future goals,” Diener said.
Kady Amsbary, Gonzaga University
Law school can be enlightening in ways that you might never imagine. For instance, at Gonzaga University School of Law you can not only learn that wine law is actually a thing, but the school is only one of a handful in the country that offers courses in wine law and business.
In addition to the people she has met as colleagues in the classroom and the attorneys she has met outside of class, this perk has been one of Kady Amsbary’s favorite parts of attending law school.
“It was such an interesting course where we learned about the process of making wine and how the Commerce Clause affects how you can ship it,” Amsbary said. “One of my favorite moments of law school so far.”
Back to her classmates though, Amsbary said the university “is such an inclusive school. Rather than competing against each other we love to help each other succeed and do well.”
As her school’s WSBA representative and ABA representative, Amsbary wants to help those around her succeed in a unique way.
“I really wanted to be more involved in the school and make a difference for the future students at Gonzaga,” she said.
Among the problems she sees that could be alleviated, Amsbary would like to see as much emphasis, if not more, on who her fellow future lawyers are as people beyond who they are on paper.
“I think everyone is so concerned about grades and how that will impact getting a job, but it is not all about that,” she said. “I want students to know that many law offices and firms care about who you are as a person as well.”