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January 8, 2009

Robin Romm remembers her mother, Jackie Romm ’81, in her memoir The Mercy Papers

Robin Romm remembers her mother, Jackie Romm '81, in her memoir "The Mercy Papers"

A recently published memoir remembers the character and strength of a passionate lawyer, and benefactor of Oregon Law’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program, during her last days.

Robin Romm, author of The Mercy Papers: A Memoir of Three Weeks, is the daughter of Jackie Romm ’81, who lost her nine-year battle against breast cancer in November 2004 at the age of fifty-six. The book details the burgeoning pain, distress, and anger Romm feels throughout the final three weeks she spends at her dying mother’s bedside.

“What I found when writing this book, was that I got to spend more time with my mother — something that should have been impossible,” Romm says of her writing process. “But, when the writing got going, there she was, alive again.”

In a January 4 review published in The New York Times, Leah Hager Cohen writes, “Her mother, even as she lies dying, rises vividly off the page. It becomes evident that Jackie Romm has always been something of a force. As a civil rights lawyer, she ‘won arguments for a living,’ found kidnapped children in foreign countries,’ secured back pay for harassed women.'”

Jackie Romm entered the University of Oregon to study law after spending time as an English teacher in Tennessee and Utah. After law school, Jackie became a partner at the Eugene firm of Walters, Romm, and Chanti. Romm remembers her mother telling various stories on how she found herself in law school. One version of this story is that Jackie took the LSAT on a whim, but received an incredibly high score, which she claimed had to have been a mistake.

“I doubt it was a mistake. My mother had an expansive, limber mind — and boy could she argue,” Romm says.

Robin Romm remembers that her mother always had a strong interest in public service law, and often took on cases at no charge for those who needed her help, but couldn’t afford it.

“Her clients were never just clients,” Romm recalls. “They were part of her extended family. Her generosity of spirit — I think that is her legacy.”

Shortly before her death, Jackie Romm, along with her husband Rich and their family, donated her retirement fund to help struggling public service lawyers. That donation set up a nearly $200,000 endowment for Oregon Law’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program that continues to grow each year.

Romm says her mother hated that people might attend law school with high hopes of changing the world and then find that, for financial reasons, they were forced to work against their conscience.

“She thought quite a lot about where to leave her retirement money and this is the fund she settled on,” notes Romm. “I can’t think of a more meaningful or accurate use of that money.”

Related Links:

The New York Times book review of The Mercy Papers
(following this link takes you outside the Oregon Law Web site)

Robin Romm
(following this link takes you outside the Oregon Law Web site)

Minding the Gap: LRAP Aims to Ease Gap between Public Service Salaries and High Student Debt (Oregon Lawyer Winter/Spring 2006)

Loan Repayment Assistance Program

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