Trisha Paul, MSL in Environmental Law, Reflects on the Experience
Degree and Class Year
Areas of legal interest(s)
I’ve been supporting energy efficiency efforts in the build environment through both residential and commercial applications for nearly 20 years. I’m most interested in net-zero energy solutions for the construction of affordable multifamily buildings, grid integration, and community-based renewable solutions. Lewis & Clark’s MSL in environmental, natural resources, and energy law program will give me the opportunity to advance my career and obtain a comprehensive understanding of energy regulation. The combination of environmental law classes and energy classes allowed me to further understand how the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act overlap with the energy sector. As a native Oregonian—my pioneer family settled in Eastern Oregon—I grew up with a relationship to the landscape based on reciprocity. With my degree from Lewis & Clark, I will continue to advocate for the efficient use of Oregon’s resources and promote a clean healthy environment for all.
What is your favorite class that you’ve taken at Lewis & Clark and why?
My favorite class at Lewis & Clark was Environmental Law with Professor Craig Johnston. It was my first exposure to law education, and it overwhelmed me. I later came to understand that the immense amount of information covered would set me up for success in the classes that followed.
List up to three activities (school-related or not) that you are involved in.
- I enjoy volunteering in my community, and here in Portland we have ample opportunities to do so. I volunteer for a Northwest Outward Bound school, and I support teaching Oregon’s youth leadership skills through the outdoors.
- I help with Central City Concern, whose mission is to help people find a home, regain health, and move toward success.
- And finally, my work to develop a climate action plan with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Oregon gives me an opportunity to share what I am learning about renewables and decarbonizing the energy sector.
What was the hardest thing about adjusting to law school?
I am a middle-aged adult with two college students and a full-time job. I have no previous law education or experience because my undergraduate degrees are in business and architecture. Everything is hard. I am overwhelmed by the volume of reading and the time commitment for each class. The exams are like nothing I have ever seen. I am often confused and feel incompetent or wonder if I have just made the wrong decision. Then I look around and notice the students, staff, and professors are all just like me. We are all struggling to balance competing priorities and find joy to fill the spaces in between. I am grateful to be surrounded by brilliant students, amazing professors, and a flexible and solution-minded staff. This community has taken the hard out of adjusting to law school, not only because of the peer support but also because of the resources available.
What did you do during the summers?
Portland is a great location in Oregon for those who seek to explore the outdoors, enjoy great food, live music, and experience the diverse neighborhood cultural events. I choose to escape the city and drive toward the coast to wander through the forest and identify a variety of plants, animals, and mushrooms. In the winter I head east an hour to snowboard on Mount Hood. The blessing of the Pacific Northwest rain brings with it the joy of winter sports and lush green forests. Summers, however, are the best! I especially enjoy backpacking into high lakes around the Cascade mountain range and exploring Central Oregon’s high desert and volcanic region.
What externships or clinics have you participated in and what was your favorite part of the externship/clinic?
I plan to participate in the spring practicum beginning in 2023. I was very excited to see that the school offered non-law firm opportunities, and I hope that my placement with a local battery storage manufacturing company will give me a unique perspective into the energy transition. Climate change, green house gasses, and energy justice issues are all topics of discussion in my classes. For the next 20 years, I want to make a difference in my community by supporting a clean environment and advocating for renewables and battery storage on our electric grid. The staff and faculty at Lewis & Clark have opened doors for me I never knew existed.