Barak Kamelgard, Online LLM Graduate in Environmental Law, Reflects on the Experience
Prior to enrolling in Lewis & Clark’s online LLM program, Barak was an entertainment attorney. However, after years of practice, he came to the realization that he was not fulfilled in his career because he felt that his work did not matter in the grand scheme. The epiphany came when he realized that his son might think his job in entertainment was cool, but he did not think his son would be proud of him. With his deep passion for protecting wildlife and the environment, and fighting climate change in mind, Barak felt the calling to transition to an area of law where he would be able to use the practical legal knowledge and skills that he had acquired to make a positive impact in the world; by stepping up and trying to do so, in whatever way he could. It was his “If not me, who? If not now, when?” moment, and so he seized the opportunity by enrolling in Lewis & Clark’s online LLM program to study Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law. Barak was able to continue working in Los Angeles and complete the degree without moving to Portland, since all his coursework was offered online.
Through his coursework, Barak extensively studied a wide variety of domestic and international environmental laws dealing with everything from air and water pollution to endangered species to environmental justice, and learned how they all apply and interact in various contexts. His professors, such as Prof. Wold, Prof. Powers, and Prof. Johnston, were always available to further discuss the materials and help Barak understand them in a much deeper way.
But, Barak’s experience stretched beyond the classroom. For example, thanks to the guidance of Prof. Rohlf, Barak published a Comment in the Environmental Law Reporter about the constitutionality of requiring climate change warning and information labels. Additionally, Barak worked with Prof. Lyman in the Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment, an international law clinic at the law school. In that role, he conducted research regarding many interesting international environmental and animal law and policy issues, such as those relating to administrative and financial aspects of the CITES Secretariat, the proposed WHO pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response treaty, and wildlife protection under the proposed UNEA plastic pollution treaty. Yet, he is proudest of his work addressing a major oil and gas extraction project occurring around the Okavango Delta and its waterways, on behalf of advocates in Namibia and Botswana and in conjunction with environmental organizations and professionals around the world, culminating with the filing of corporate accountability complaints to securities and investment industry regulators. Seeing the impact his work will have on the people and animals in that region, as well as the overwhelming public reaction to, and support of, their efforts was amazing and truly humbling. It was the first time in his career that he felt like he was really making a difference, but Barak wanted to make sure it was not the last.
These experiences helped solidify for Barak that he had made the correct decision in transitioning his career. Although it was a scary decision to make, it was absolutely worth it. After graduating summa cum laude, Barak had several job opportunities but ultimately followed his heart and the same feeling that drove him to enroll in Lewis & Clark in the first place, by joining LA Waterkeeper. In his role, he fights for Los Angeles County’s coastline and inland waterways to be safe, healthy, and accessible to the public by eliminating ongoing pollution to those waterways, restoring the health and ecological integrity of those habitats, and making fundamental changes to the way we manage our water to be smarter, more equitable, and more sustainable.
Also, for what it’s worth, shortly after joining LA Waterkeeper, Barak’s son told him that he is proud of him, and always will be. Long story short, Barak finally feels fulfilled in his career, and he could not have done it without Lewis & Clark Law School.