June 01, 2011

Sarah Perelstein

The Center for Biological Diversity, San Francisco, CA

I’m so grateful for the PILP stipend, for allowing me to continue to pursue my passion of using the law to protect endangered species, and reminding me why I decided to attend law school in the first place!  The PILP stipend made it possible for me to work for an incredible San Francisco-based nonprofit, the Center for Biological Diversity, that has a team of about twenty lawyers devoted exclusively to using our laws to extend critical protections to endangered species and their habitats.  My summer internship gave me the opportunity to become familiar with a variety of interesting environmental issues that impact species.  I was able to draft memos and comments relating to long-standing environmental issues such as highway construction and litigation over California’s water storage and supply system, as well as addressing rather cutting-edge emerging issues in environmental law, such as fracking and the novel climate change requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. 


The PILP stipend provided me with an incredible learning experience for numerous reasons.  First, it gave me the ability to seek out an opportunity to work with one of my dream organizations, in something I have considered to be a relatively niche field.  It was fascinating and beneficial to learn of the wide array of issues that the attorneys took on with each case, and the creative ways they sought to use the law to pose solutions to environmental problems. (This was particularly helpful and invigorating after the first year of law school, when I learned to question whether the law could actually be a creative field per se).  I learned I could be effective, whether by specializing in marine issues, water law or climate change, for example, specifically; or simply by dedicating my career to working on species protection issues, and confronting all of the varied challenges that come along.  It was helpful not only to learn of the day-to-day responsibilities of a nonprofit attorney, but it also allowed me to vastly improve my legal research, writing, and critical thinking skills and broadened my ideas for the type of legal career I want to pursue!  Before my internship this summer, I was convinced I would mainly work on policy, but attending Ninth Circuit hearings and assisting our attorneys in preparing cases for trial opened me up to a possible career in environmental litigation.  This experience was critical in allowing me to comprehend a public interest environmental legal career, and providing me with an opportunity to hone the skills that will help me become an effective lawyer.   Ultimately, this internship made me more excited than ever about the possibility of having a legal career advancing the issues that I care deeply about!