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International Law

Jeffrey Van Name

September 30, 2011

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2011 Extern at Enviro Legal Defence Firm

“The possibility of working as an extern at one of the placements in the newly developed India program was a major contributing factor in choosing Lewis & Clark after visiting for the admitted students reception.  To be here in India as one of the first students representing L&C at the select Indian firms is very exciting to say the least.

The externship with Sanjay Upadhyay at Enviro Legal Defence Firm provided a great education, going far beyond what could be achieved in the classroom environment.  Without a doubt, the extended flight, erratic traffic, densely-populated, dynamic urban environment, 100+ degree temperatures, intermittent electricity and, of course, the wandering cows provided for a shock to my system upon arrival.  And, once the dust settled, I was reminded that this externship was not a vacation, but rather an opportunity.

The work I was involved in, including consultancy on a large renewable energy project implicating both domestic local and national law as well as international law, was demanding.  But, from this project, among others I was involved in, I have been able to learn an entirely new legal structure.  Though sharing our common law system, the Indian approach to many environmental laws (and other areas of law) is unique.  I was provided with a new perspective that I can use in comparative study of our own system as well as other foreign systems.

Furthermore, I came home with a new, broader focus on the importance of environmental laws.  Mr. Upadhyay, at ELDF has envisaged and created a firm focused on examining implementation successes and obstacles on the ground to adequately address these issues through policy and courtroom action.   In a world with so many disparate cultural perspectives and interests in the environment, such an approach is necessary to continue development of effective environmental laws.  This lesson I took home, to (1) remember that what is happening on the ground is most important and (2) to remember that our domestic laws are only part of a larger structure of countries that may need to work in unison (though properly tailored to each region’s needs) in order to tackle environmental problems.

Most importantly, this externship allowed me to hone in on particular professional legal skills that I can utilize in any work environment, whether abroad or at home.  Obstacles faced due to cultural misunderstanding and language difference are always humbling and consistently remind me of the need to always be prepared to learn and adjust in any situation.  Furthermore, most of the skills learned in India regarding office culture can be applied at any job.  Of course, I doubt I will receive my twice-daily chai tea served at my desk.”