From Earthrise Grads to Environmental Champions
June 17, 2014
Many Earthrise grads go on to be the advocates for the environment they always wanted to be. We talked with three members of the graduating class of 2013–Maura Fahey, Jeffrey Van Name and Maggie Hall–about their work here and what they’re up to a year later.
What kind of work did you do as an Earthrise student?
Maggie: I worked on cases related to water quality and species protection. I also had the incredible opportunity of helping Professor Johnston draft an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in L.A. County Flood Control District v. NRDC. Our brief addressed issues of administrative law, statutory interpretation, and the potential impact of the Court’s ruling on the regulation of wetlands.
Jeffrey: I worked on NEPA cases with Tom Buchele, including the Columbia River Crossing and Oregon LNG cases, drafting motions, briefs, and internal memoranda. I also worked with Allison LaPlante and Kevin Cassidy on the condor case.
Maura: I gained experience doing a variety of work, including Clean Air Act research, Clean Water Act enforcement, work on a request for attorney’s fees at the close of the long-running Oregon Water Quality Standards Case, as well as some challenges to Federal administrative decisions pertaining to an LNG export proposal in Oregon.
What other activities in law school did you do?
Jeffrey: I was highly active with NEDC. In my first year, I served as a Student Board Member and volunteered for the Water Project Group and the Sustainable Agriculture & Pesticide Policy Project Group. During my second year, I worked as a Water Project Group Coordinator, along with Maura. That experience really helped me understand the ins and outs of case development. Throughout law school, I also worked as a Co-Chair for the Coalition Advocating for Transportation Solutions, promoting alternative transportation and trying to shift the surprisingly strong driving culture that exists at the law school.
Maura: I also participated in planning events with the Environmental Law Caucus and headed a campaign on the Lewis & Clark campus to reduce bottled water consumption called ‘Take Back the Tap’.
Did you participate in Craig’s moot court class? If so, how did that complement your Earthrise work?
Maggie: Yes, I was very active in Craig’s moot court class. The moot court program definitely helped me with Earthrise work because it taught me to be incredibly thorough in legal research, improved my legal writing and advocacy, and gave me familiarity with many of the substantive areas that Earthrise encounters. My 2L year I argued in the National Animal Law Moot Court Competition. My team won first place and I won best Oral Advocate. My 3L year I argued in the Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, in which my team was a finalist. I also had the honor of arguing before Chief Justice John Roberts, Judge O’Scannlain and Judge Brown in the Advocate of the Year Competition.
Maura: I did participate in moot court. It really helped me fine-tune my researching skills and improved my confidence in meetings with clients and speaking up in class.
Where do you work and how would you summarize your job?
Maggie: I work as a staff attorney at the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara, California. I am a staff attorney at a public interest nonprofit environmental law firm that works to protect and enhance the environment, with a focus on California’s south-central coastal region. My work primarily involves litigation, advocacy and policy matters related to water quality, open space and wildlife. Before joining EDC, I was a legal fellow at Los Angeles Waterkeeper where I focused on CWA enforcement.
Jeffrey: I am the Law Fellow for Los Angeles Waterkeeper in Santa Monica, California. I develop cases and assist with ongoing litigation, involving facilities, government agencies, and municipalities, to enforce the Clean Water Act (CWA). The LA area watersheds–and in particular the LA River–have been tremendously harmed by years of unchecked development and pollution. However, local, state, and federal agencies have now committed to working to address the problems and reverse the damage. In conjunction with that effort, I spend a significant portion of my time developing and carrying out cases against industrial facilities that are operating in violation of California’s Industrial General Storm Water Permit.
Maura: I work at Crag Law Center, in Portland, as a Legal Fellow. Currently I’m working mostly on CWA and Oregon land use cases, but I am also involved in some wildlife, endangered species and public lands cases that other Crag attorneys are working on. Crag also does some policy work, mainly involving issues on the Oregon coast. Another important aspect of my work is helping in fundraising efforts and events, as well as media outreach through blog posts and news updates on our website.
Did Earthrise help you prepare for this kind of work?
Maggie: Yes! Earthrise was a fantastic preparation for my current work. At Earthrise, I developed strong writing, research and advocacy skills in addition to practical skills, such as client management. It also gave me a solid background on the environmental laws I now work with daily. Working with Earthrise attorneys and their clients also connected me with a greater network in the field of environmental law that I continue to develop even working in another state.
Jeffrey: Absolutely. There is no substitute for the clinical experience at Earthrise. Because I was able to participate in active environmental litigation, including candid strategy sessions, I now feel comfortable engaging in the litigation processes here at Waterkeeper. But, more important was the level of supervision, mentorship, and feedback I received at Earthrise. Nowhere else would I have received that level of investment from a supervisor.
Maura: Yes. Working for Earthrise gave me a first look into the real everyday aspects of environmental litigation work. Much of what you need to know for actual legal practice is not taught in law school. As an intern for Earthrise I was able to get more experience doing hands-on environmental litigation but also got exposure to some of the mundane, though very important, tasks required of litigators, such as doing a proper electronic filing. I often look to the work I did with Earthrise for examples or refreshers for the work I am doing now at Crag.
Do you love your job?
Maggie: Yes, I absolutely love my job. I get to advocate for environmental protection on behalf of a variety of client groups on a diverse array of environmental issues spanning local, state and federal levels.
Jeffrey: I do indeed love my job. My office is a block off the beach. I can ride my bike along the coast to work. And, I work with a great team. In fact, our executive director, Liz Crosson, is an Earthrise alum. Her and the rest of the staff have created an amazing work environment. It’s very rewarding to be part of a small organization that achieves such grand accomplishments.
Maura: Absolutely! I love the work atmosphere in the Crag office. We are a small firm with only three staff attorneys, two legal fellows and one development director. There is a real sense of community in the office and I am often working side-by-side with another attorney. I was very fortunate to land my dream job straight out of law school!
What advice might you give current law students in Earthrise about what to look for in their post law school career?
Maggie: I recommend finding work that really excites you and choosing positions, to the extent that you can, with the most responsibility.
Jeffrey: Location. Location. Location. I’m joking. Kind of. I spend a lot of time in the water surfing in Santa Monica Bay. I love to ride my bike along the Los Angeles River, and to hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. I want to protect those areas and know that we can live in an urban environment without sacrificing the health of the natural environment. So make sure to keep focused on why you pursued environmental law in the first place. It will get you through those arduous days behind the computer.
Maura: I think my key advice would be to keep your options open. Although I was able to secure a position at Crag and stay in Portland after law school, I kept my job search broad both geographically and in terms of the type of work I was willing to do. You might not get your dream job right off the bat, but you will get there eventually and the experiences you have along the way will benefit you throughout your career.