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Environmental, Natural Resources, & Energy Law

Snapshot of an “almost” JD and an “already” champion: Laura Kerr

April 16, 2014

Laura Kerr is an “almost” JD - and an “already” Environmental Moot Court Advocate of the year. She won the Lewis & Clark competition last week, arguing in front of a distinguished panel that included Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Scott Matheson, Jr., of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.

Her team-mates from the national competition, Daniel Rottenberg and Ben Saver, were her adversaries in this intra-school competition. All of the judges remarked how hard the decision was to choose from these amazing advocates. Everyone in attendance agreed.

Click on the related content section to listen to a podcast of the oral arguments

For more on Laura read the blogpost below from “Snapshot of an Almost JD” (an ongoing series) written by her classmate Halah Ilias:

Meet Laura Kerr, an almost J.D.

Laura is a phenomenal oral advocate.  She won the National Animal Law Moot Court competition last year and was a semi-finalist in this year’s National Environmental Law Moot Court competition.  Seeing her in action is incredible: she thinks quickly on her feet and maintains her composure extremely well with hot benches.
I asked Laura the following questions.  Here are her answers:
What’s your educational background?
After high school, I spent time at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Kenya. Then, I attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota where I majored in Geography and minored in Environmental Studies and Political Science.
What about your family background?
My family is mostly scattered around Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, where I grew up. My mom is a school therapist and my father is a family lawyer. I have 1 brother and 2 half-sisters. I am a proud aunt of 5 of the coolest kids in the whole world (and completely unbiased).
 Why did you decide to go to law school?
Before law school, I worked in the environmental field as a researcher and subsequently as an educator. While I enjoyed both these careers, I knew I ultimately wanted to pursue a path where I was more involved in applying my skills in a policy-driven way.
Practicing environmental law enables me to combine my favorite parts of my previous work. I am able to immerse myself in environmental science by translating complicated scientific ideas into legal frameworks and I get to help people. I am passionate about grappling with complex environmental problems and finding workable solutions.
I specifically chose to attend Lewis & Clark because of the strength of the Environmental Law program. The school enables students who are interested in environmental law to immerse themselves in a variety of incredible opportunities. I have taken classes ranging from Hazardous Waste Law to Hydropower Law, gained practical experience working for two of the non-profit environmental organizations housed on campus, Northwest Environmental Defense Center and Earthrise, participated in Environmental Moot Court and the list goes on. The sheer number of opportunities and the passionate community makes the experience unparalleled.
What is your favorite part about Lewis & Clark?
First, the faculty is spectacular. When I came to visit the school, I was struck by how approachable and passionate the professors seemed. I have not been disappointed. The faculty cares about high quality teaching. Moreover, outside the classroom, they care about developing personal relationships with students. Professors have mentored me in a variety of ways including proffering career advice, assisting with the job hunt, and being there to talk about life and all its challenges. I cannot thank them enough!
Also, the student body is equally impressive. Lewis & Clark attracts students who are passionate not only about the law, but also about making an impact. There is maturity to the student body that lends itself to a strong sense of camaraderie and a positive learning environment.
What is your least favorite part about Lewis & Clark?
Going to school adjacent to a state park has been both one of my favorite and least favorite parts of attending L&C. I will lace up my running shoes and go for trail runs during lunch throughout the semester and go on short hikes with friends during exams to clear my head. The problem is when I sit in the library, which faces the woods, sometimes it can be hard to resist the temptation to go explore.
What are your future job and career goals?
Starting in the fall, I will be working for Perkins Coie LLP in the Environment, Energy and Resources practice group as an Environmental Attorney. I am honored and excited to make the transition to practicing law and thrilled to stay in Portland, a city I love deeply.   
What do you think prospective students should know about law school?
The decision to go to law school is a hard decision, especially considering how many news outlets have recently published stories about how terrible an idea it is to go to law school. And, perhaps it is true that if you are considering going to law school only as a default, it may not be the best decision. However, if it is something you are truly passionate about and believe will place you on a career path that will be fulfilling, go for it.
On that note, a lot of people put a great deal of emphasis on U.S. News and World Report ranking when making the decision about which law school to attend. As hard as it can be, it’s important to remember that the school you pick should be a good fit for you.
What is an interesting part about your background?  Or in other words, how do you contribute to the diversity of Lewis & Clark?
I came into law school after working in another field so I am a little older than the average law school student. Also I think the fact that I lived in Portland prior to law school is, surprisingly, not typical at Lewis & Clark. As a result, I was able to stay involved in the community as I transitioned to law school. I think having that connection with Portland has also been valuable because I have been able to connect fellow students to organizations doing great work and can also recommend the best food carts in town.