Environmental Law Clinic Update

Nov 01, 2012 | Stegner Center

The current version of our environmental clinic, founded by Robert Adler, the James I. Farr Chair and Professor of Law, is now in its fourth year.  Clinical Assistant Professor, Jamie Pleune, began running the clinic last year and has continued to develop the program into a first-class educational experience.  The clinic has two components: a weekly class meeting and an individual student project in which the student is paired with an outside attorney to work on an active case with a live client.   Each project is unique, and the range of potential projects fills the spectrum of environmental advocacy, from litigation, to administrative petitions, to strategic white papers or policy proposals, to regulatory drafting, to environmental enforcement. 

The clinic has been expanding the experiential and skill-oriented learning opportunities for students, while strengthening community efforts to protect and preserve the environment.  This year, the clinic continues to work with attorneys at Western Resource Advocates (WRA), a public interest environmental law firm, on cutting edge environmental advocacy projects.  The students assigned to the projects with WRA will work on a variety of issues ranging from air quality concerns raised by the proposed expansion of several refineries in the Salt Lake valley to environmental risks posed by large-scale unconventional fuel development. 

With increased student enrollment and a growing interest in clinical work within the legal community, the clinic has also built new relationships that have increased the variety of clinical placements.  The clinic is collaborating with the Department of Environmental Quality to offer two student placements: one focused on enforcement, and the other focused on regulatory drafting.  Additionally, the clinic has begun a new collaborative partnership with Jim Holtkamp at Holland & Hart to work on a pro bono project focused on mitigating climate change and preserving biodiversity through the sale of carbon sequestration credits.  These three new placements have expanded the breadth and depth of the experiential opportunities provided to students and provided additional opportunities for the law school to work with the legal community on projects that protect the environment.

Students who participated in the clinic during past years have consistently reported that the clinic provided in-depth mentoring that improved their writing and analysis.  Megan McKay (’13) stated that she felt the clinic allowed her to “step into the shoes of a practicing environmental litigator.”  She enjoyed collaborating with practicing attorneys on writing briefs, participating in forming litigation strategy, and interviewing expert witnesses.  “The hands-on approach offered learning experiences that cannot be found in the classroom or a text book,” she summarized.    This type of learning prepares students for practice and augments the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s nationally recognized program in environmental and natural resource law.