Meet 2L Tessa Chillemi: Legal clerk with Earthrise Law Center
July 06, 2016
Tessa is a member of the Lewis & Clark Law Class of 2018. She grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado, then headed to Nashville, Tennessee, where she studied Public Policy (with an Environmental Policy track) at Vanderbilt University, graduating magna cum laude. After a two-year stint in Madison, Wisconsin, where she worked at a healthcare tech company, she is excited to be in Portland and working towards a Certificate in Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law. She has also volunteered with Legal Aid Services of Oregon’s night clinic this year. Tessa is currently a legal clerk with Earthrise Law Center, one of Lewis & Clark’s legal clinics. Here, Tessa describes the work she’s been doing at Earthrise this summer.
Prior to working at Earthrise, I had grown accustomed to the steady pace of my 1L legal writing class. This measured progression was, of course, necessary for a first-year law student, with plenty of new research strategies to master, linguistic styles to practice, and “keys” to unlock critical case law. Our class wrote four or five memos and then spent weeks honing and perfecting a brief. The time we spent was vital, building a foundation which we knew we would need to draw on for our summer jobs.
Sure enough, since starting at Earthrise just over a month ago, I have had the opportunity to help write sections of two briefs and will also be able to contribute to a complaint in the near future. This steep learning curve launched in my very first week, when I was given access to a bulky administrative record and helped my supervising attorney, Professor Dan Rohlf, locate important internal communications. Later, I helped research and draft a request for vacatur, learning Ninth Circuit precedent that none of my classes had covered. Similarly, I had to learn some unfamiliar areas of environmental and administrative law in order to draw parallels with binding precedent and persuasive authority. My immersion this summer will put me a step ahead when I take environmental courses in the fall.
After we filed both briefs, I also had the great opportunity to sit down with Professor Rohlf and go over the edits he made to the drafts I had submitted to him. While some of my work appeared directly in the briefs, he also showed me why he rearranged or reworded other sections. I have already taken away valuable practice points to keep in mind as I write my next brief for Earthrise – and as I move towards my own career as a practicing attorney.
In short, the pace is definitely different than a first-year law school course. However, while definitely challenging, Earthrise does not demand a breakneck sprint. Despite our ample assignments, we still have time for fun weekly potlucks (so far, I think “The Beatles” has been our best theme this summer) with time to get to know our staff attorneys, as well as the occasional group run through the thickly wooded Tryon Creek, the beautiful state natural area behind the law school. You can also learn a lot just from spending time in the extern workroom, where we discuss current political events and our respective projects.
I feel incredibly lucky to get the chance to stretch my legs with the organization this summer and through the next school year as well. Some stretches are more uphill than others, but the legal experience is invaluable. I remain very grateful for the chance to learn practical skills in a supportive clinic environment like Earthrise.