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Snapshot of a 2014 JD: Will McLaren

March 10, 2014

“If there was a Mr. Congeniality award at school, Will would have it. Three times, one for each year.  Will can talk to anyone and even get curmudgeons to smile.  He is well spoken, intelligent, kind, and generous.  As an attorney, I have no doubt Will would work hard and do great work.”


Halah asked Will the following questions.  Here are his answers:

What’s your educational background?

After high school, I attended community college in my hometown while working full-time and attending school part-time. After studying a bit of everything, I ultimately transferred to the University of California, Riverside. At UCR, I majored in environmental sciences and focused on natural resource economics and social/political sciences.

While at UCR, I grew fond of chemistry and was invited to join the school’s soil and water sciences laboratory to perform original research under a professor (who was responsible for the cleanup of the hexavalent chromium featured in Erin Brockovich—look it up!). I personally studied the purported regulatory “greenness” of heavy metals, particularly tungsten, and monitored selenium levels from agricultural runoff in surrounding waterbodies. After graduation, I stayed on and finished several ongoing experiments and tied-up my research.

What about your family background?

My parents were born in California and Texas. My mom was a district attorney and my dad was a private investigator. I have an older brother and a younger sister. Also, my grandma and I are buddies. We get on the phone fairly often to compare how classes are going (my law school classes and her swimming classes, of course).

Why did you decide to go to law school?

Speaking generally, I have always enjoyed social policy-focused concepts rather than the more technical areas of my prior studies. At one point, I learned that there are areas of law dealing with environmental compliance, that lawyers play large roles in natural resource disputes and transactions, and that there are legal means to protect biodiversity and ecosystems—something that is plain as day to me now but was an epiphany to my younger self. That was the tipping point.

A quick study of ideal schools showed Lewis & Clark had everything I could ask for, and the concept of putting down the pipette and picking up the pen became all-consuming. So here I am.

What is your favorite part about Lewis & Clark?

Location. I enjoy the proximity to L&C’s beautiful undergraduate campus. Oddly enough, I also like the distance from the city—being a few miles out allows me to dig-in and focus without all of Portland’s incredible distractions.

What is your least favorite part about Lewis & Clark?

The park. It is so close yet, while at school, I am consistently too busy to go out and play. But seriously, parking.

What are your future job and career goals?

Among other things, I would like to be an Assistant U.S. Attorney working primarily on environmental matters. Alternatively, I would like to act as general counsel to a responsible company, assisting with environmental obligations. Alternatively again, I would like to have a renewable energy development and environmental compliance practice at a firm.

What do you think prospective students should know about law school?

Law school is a sieve. It will shake and filter you until only the most significant aspects of your life and yourself remain. This will occur steadily over time, but by the conclusion of your legal education, you will know what truly matters, what was meant to be shaken out, and you will likely benefit from some positive additions—friends, discipline, knowledge—that will persist well beyond your time at L&C.

What is an interesting part about your background?  Or in other words, how do you contribute to the diversity of Lewis & Clark?

While I won’t go through the whole sob story, I will say that I grew up in significantly less than ideal circumstances. Some of my family members were bright stars and others were dark clouds. Sadly, not much has changed in that respect. More to the diversity point, I was very poor for many of my formative years. At various times, I lived with no heat, no lights, no food, and bad health. While my circumstances gradually changed, the effects of that life lingered in the form of very troubled high school years, terrible grades, and a penchant for running with the wrong crowd. Eventually I gathered myself, I found my work ethic, and I gained the momentum that brought me here today.

All of that said, I wouldn’t change a thing. I believe struggle builds character. I hope whatever character I’ve built makes me a positive addition to this school and to the legal profession in general.


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