Environmental Law Clinic
Student PerspectivesPrinter Friendly Version
Erik Bluemel (’04)
As a student interested in environmental law, but often humbled by the odious “Socratic Method,” I knew that participating in the Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was necessary to revive my interest in the law after that tortuous first year. I was, for the first time in my legal career, right on the mark. The clinic put me where the action was: right in the middle of a lawsuit.
From the day the clinic started to the day it finished, I was heavily involved in a suit that NRDC brought against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) challenging DOE’s rollback of recently promulgated appliance efficiency standards. The standards, designed to reduce the perkilowatt- hour energy consumption of air conditioners and heaters, and promulgated at the end of the Clinton administration, were suspended and then rescinded by the Bush administration. NRDC brought the lawsuit because the statute under which the standards were created provides that the standards can never be weakened, and because the rollback occurred without following the required public “notice and comment” procedures.
My involvement was surprisingly large, as I was immediately thrown into the thick of things. I conducted research in support of, and edited and revised large portions of, two appellate briefs submitted to the Second Circuit. Though I was completely enthralled by my Civil Procedure course, there is just no substitute for the real-world experience of seeing what a proper pleading and brief looks like.
As an aspiring environmental lawyer, I cannot say enough about my participation in the Environmental Law Clinic — it has been my most rewarding experience in Law School thus far, even surpassing the beloved Civil Procedure. But who knows? Maybe the International Environmental Law Clinic will top it.
Anika Singh (’04)
At NRDC, I worked on a lawsuit to enforce lead abatement laws and regulations, and helped to draft legislation to provide tax credits for energy-efficient and transit-accessible developments in New Jersey. I took the clinic because of my interest in land use and development issues, and was pleased to pursue that interest in the clinic projects. It was exciting to work on legislation that finally, last May, was introduced in the New Jersey state legislature.Working on tax credit legislation definitely informed my understanding of tax incentives and preferences while I was taking Income Tax last semester. The clinic seminars were extremely educational, with topics varying from air-conditioner efficiency to preserving the Everglades. Our discussions of landmarks preservation and environmentally-friendly economic development especially enhanced my understanding of how environmental law affects the types of issues — affordable housing and economic development — that I’m interested in.
Emily Willits (’03)
I worked with attorneys in NRDC’s Urban Program on projects aimed at protecting the cleanliness of New York City’s water supply. The most important lesson I learned at NRDC is that effective environmental advocacy requires equal attention to legal strategy, policy planning, and public relations. On any given visit to NRDC, I could expect to research a complicated legal issue, participate in a strategy session for a town hall meeting, or review a press release relating to one of my assignments. The work was fast-paced and varied, and each component was critical.
The clinic provided an exciting opportunity to learn about the inner workings of one of the most highly regarded environmental action organizations in the world. Each week our seminar featured a guest visitor, either from within NRDC or from another environmental organization or government agency. I left the clinic with an understanding of environmental issues that I had not thought about before, not to mention a binder full of sample legal briefs and memoranda written by some of the best environmental lawyers in the country. I still receive occasional updates about the projects I worked on at the clinic — just last spring, I attended a hearing in Albany for a case that I worked on in Fall 2002.