Next in "Student Organizations 101" series is the Environmental Law Society (ELS) which, in conjunction with the Public Interest Law Society, held a lunchtime speaking event on careers in public interest work in environmental law. Below is a recap of the event, and an introduction to ELS, by Kristin Greer Love ('09).
"Last week the Environmental Law Society (ELS) and the Public Interest Law Society (PILS) co-hosted "So, You Want to Save the Planet?: Public Interest Work in Environmental Law," a lunch talk with three young attorneys who are fighting the good fight for the environment. Our lunch panel featured Andrew Armstrong of the Illinois Attorney General's Office's Environmental Division, Sherry Daun ('03) of the Chicagoland Bicycle Foundation and Meleah Geertsma of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Law students, undergraduate students from the College, and graduate students from the Harris School of Public Policy joined three public interest attorneys for a delicious lunch from a Hyde Park institution, Snail Thai restaurant.
The three lawyers shared invaluable insights for students who are interested in pursuing public interest work soon after law school. Armstrong worked for a couple of years in the private school, gaining invaluable litigation that made him a stand-out candidate for his current job in the Attorney General's Office. Daun began as a volunteer with the Bicycle Federation, while practicing elsewhere and now works with lawmakers and city officials to improve funding and planning for alternative transportation and to advocate for cyclists. Geertsma completed a one-year Master's Degree program in Public Health after her J.D. which broadened her knowledge base and better prepared her to litigate and investigate complex public health and environmental concerns stemming from coal power plants.
Their advice? First, network with attorneys who have jobs that you would love to have a few years after graduation and talk with them about how they made it. Next, read about loan forgiveness programs for public interest lawyers and borrow as little as possible during law school. On the same note, live like a law student after graduating and use your income to pay down your debt. The panelists also suggested courses such as Legislation for those interested in government practice such as working in a legislator's office or as a liaison between a public interest organization and legislators; Administrative Law and Environmental Law for those interested in (what else?) environmental work. Another piece of advice was to consider a joint-degree program such as a JD-MPP [such as the program available at the Law School] that will add value and make you a better candidate on the public interest job work. The panelists also suggested working in the private sector is also a great way to develop your skills before moving to a public interest position where you are likely to have a lot of responsibility right from the beginning. Finally, they suggested volunteering and/or interning with organizations during law school to get a sense of whether you would like to work with them after law school."
Kristin also gives a run-down on past and future events ELS organized and embodies the type of commitment and enthusiasm students at the Law School have for their causes and interests, and the way they seek to inform the rest of the community about new issues.
"Earlier this year ELS sponsored a talk on congesting pricing with Visiting Professor Jonathan Nash [also a past Law School Bigelow Fellow to our very own Student Services Fellow, Kristen Mercado ('04)], a service trip to nearby Jackson Park to help with a habitat preservation project, and an outing to the annual Chocolate Festival at the Garfield Park Conservatory, a beautiful cultural and botanical center on Chicago's West Side. In the Spring Quarter, we will host a talk with Professor Eric Posner among others on climate change justice. We're also planning several events for Earth Week, including talks on homeland security and the environment, environmental issues in the Supreme Court, carbon markets, as well as a trip to dine at Chicago's Green Zebra and a river restoration project."
No one can call these ecologically-minded students lazy! For more on other student organizations that contribute to the rich and diverse community at the Law School, revisit the blog soon. You can also learn more about the intersection between the law and the environment you can soon read a review and listed to a podcast of the latest in the Chicago's Best Ideas series, "Climate Change and the Battle of the Generations," delivered by Dean Saul Levmore.