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July 15, 2009

A Beautiful Friendship: Class of ’79 Judges Ann Aiken and Roxanne Osborne watch careers, families blossom

This is the third in a series of stories profiling Oregon Law alumni whose class reunions occur this fall.

While many law school friendships fade throughout the course of time, Class of 1979 alumnae Judge Ann Aiken and Judge Roxanne (Burgett) Osborne have withstood the test of time. Aiken and Osborne have remained close friends even through the all-consuming life stages of careers and moves, marriages and children.

The two met in their first law class of the day, Legal Research and Writing, nearly thirty-three years ago.

“The 1Ls were assigned to the class based on the alphabetical order of their last names,” Judge Aiken recalls. “A number of my close friends from law school had last names beginning with letters at the front of the alphabet.”

Since law school, the two have talked on the phone nearly every morning (Judge Aiken lives in Eugene, while Judge Osborne resides in Klamath Falls), and their families have vacationed together for the past twenty-five years.

“Ann and I have been friends since our first day of law school,” Judge Osborne says. “She has five boys and I have two boys. We’ve raised our kids together.”

“Our families are intertwined,” adds Judge Aiken.

What is it about the friendship of these two successful women that has helped it survive throughout the years? Judge Aiken says it has been the mutual support of a shared dream — to do meaningful work while maintaining a close family life. The support for one another certainly seems to work.

Osborne is a circuit court judge for Klamath County, making her the county’s first woman judge. She was appointed to the position in 1990. Aiken is a federal judge for the U.S. District Court of Oregon. Former President Bill Clinton nominated her for the position in 1998. She was appointed to the Chief Judge position earlier this year.

“We have supported one another’s careers since law school and we are privileged to have such wonderful work,” Judge Aiken says.

Although both women have watched their careers in law flourish, each came to Oregon Law following a different path. For Judge Osborne, law school was always in the plans, even from her early years. She first attended Oregon State University, receiving a bachelor’s degree in political science before heading to Oregon Law.

“When I was little, I was always told how mouthy I was and that I should become a lawyer — the seed was planted,” she remembers. “Then, in 1976 a book was published featuring all of the law schools in the nation divided into four tiers. At the time UO was the only second-tier law school in Oregon and it was extremely affordable.”

For Judge Aiken, the path was a little less clear. When asked if she always knew she wanted to attend law school, she replies with an emphatic, “No, not at all.”

“My background is in medicine and I grew up working in hospitals in Salem to put myself through school,” she notes. “I came to UO as an undergraduate premed/pre-nursing major, but also took some courses in political science and economics.”

Ultimately, it was a political science course taught by the late Professor James Klonoski, whom she later married, that changed Judge Aiken’s mind. “He said I should give law school a try.”

Aiken took time off during her junior year of undergraduate school to work for the Oregon Legislature. She then took a year to work for the United States Congress before heading to graduate school at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she received a master’s degree in political science.

Despite the varying experiences each woman had on her way to law school, both agree that their time at Oregon Law was an experience they’ll never forget.

“I loved all of it,” Judge Osborne jovially exclaims. “People always talk about how awful law school is, but other than the studying, I thought it was a great time.”

“We had an extraordinary class,” Judge Aiken recalls. “We were a very engaged class — we hosted numerous big-name speakers and I believe we hosted some of the first wine and cheese events at the school.”

Of course a fond memory both woman share are the Hearts tournaments, a popular establishment for the Class of 1979 and now an enduring part of its legacy. Judge Osborne is quick to note that she was the winner of one of these prestigious tournaments.

Now, nearly thirty years since those tournaments ended, the friends are watching as their children prepare to enter Oregon Law. Judge Osborne’s oldest son, Justin, and Judge Aiken’s third son, Zach, will join the incoming Class of 2012 this fall, and both mothers have some words of advice for their future lawyers.

“A legal education is a tool that can be used in many, many career choices,” remarks Judge Aiken. “He is going to have a great experience.”

“My advice is to go to class and do all of your homework,” Judge Osborne says. “Your education costs a lot of money.”

Whether or not their sage advice is followed, both women understand that their sons’ legal education will be much different than their own as the practice of law evolves.

“Technology is huge. The kids entering law school today have a tremendous advantage. The tools are more advanced and user-friendly,” Judge Aiken says. “Plus, my son’s game of choice is Cribbage.”

“There’s a lot more emphasis on mediation and arbitration outside of the courtroom,” Judge Osborne explains. “That’s a trend we’re seeing these days and I think it’s a good thing. It’s much better to see people agreeing outside the courtroom than arguing inside the courtroom.”

Related Link

Oregon Law Reunions 2009

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