March 21, 2023



Via new Texas A&M authorized clinic, college students discover implications of environmental legislation

5 min read

Rising up in southeast Ohio, Haley Varnadoe all the time felt a pull to the authorized subject. Her hometown of Marietta felt the affect of chemical contamination documented in “Darkish Waters,” the 2019 movie portraying the lives of residents who contracted lethal diseases from a close-by DuPont manufacturing facility.

“I used to be fascinated by environmental justice from a extremely younger age,” Varnadoe stated. “I took a number of side-steps alongside the way in which, however I all the time discovered my method again into desirous to be a lawyer.”

Varnadoe’s curiosity in environmental legislation drew her to Texas A&M College’s Faculty of Regulation, which presents an vitality, environmental and pure useful resource methods program. Via their coursework, college students can delve deeper into points surrounding water air pollution, land use and the oil and gasoline trade.

Other than the same UT-Austin course, Texas A&M is likely one of the state’s solely legislation colleges to supply an environmental legislation clinic, stated Sara Thornton, who co-teaches the category with professor Gabriel Eckstein. Eckstein, an skilled in worldwide water legislation and coverage, serves as director of Texas A&M’s environmental legislation program.

The concept for the clinic was born out of Eckstein’s capstone class, which allowed college students to provide authorized suggestions for real-life purchasers as their last challenge.

Capstone programs are a rarity at legislation colleges, Eckstein stated, and he realized the category can be extra useful to college students if it included the sensible expertise that comes with a proper clinic. Regulation colleges are nice at instructing concept and case legislation, Eckstein stated, however graduates want one other set of expertise to be courtroom prepared.

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“My capstone was functioning like a clinic, minus the abilities part,” Eckstein stated. “We weren’t actually instructing them the abilities of the best way to speak to purchasers. We noticed actual worth in taking that additional step and saying: ‘Let’s ratchet it up and make an effort to show them: How do you communicate to the consumer? How do you interview?’”

After establishing the clinic with affiliate dean Luz E. Herrera, Eckstein reached out to Thornton, an Austin-based water lawyer with the agency Lloyd Gosselink Rochell & Townsend, P.C., about co-teaching the course.

Thornton can be one in every of Eckstein’s former college students from his days as a professor at Texas Tech’s legislation college. Eckstein’s plan to marry the classroom expertise with the day-to-day experiences of advising a consumer satisfied Thornton, who taught her first Texas A&M legislation course in spring 2021, to say: “Signal me up.”

“It appeared like a fantastic alternative for me to develop as an lawyer as effectively, as a result of it helps me hone my expertise with the people I work with,” Thornton stated. “It isn’t a one-sided studying expertise on behalf of the scholars. The professors positively get lots out of it.”

Members of the clinic give attention to authorized points, reminiscent of compliance with environmental rules, and tackle a single consumer each spring semester. The category – which may vary from 5 to eight college students – doesn’t deal with litigation however can’t talk about particulars of its work attributable to attorney-client privilege.

The teachings discovered within the course transcend the specifics of the authorized points college students explored, Thornton stated.

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“While you’re simply taking coursework, it’s not effectively understood the extent of stress that’s greater once you’re coping with the consumer,” she stated. “There was loads of give attention to time administration, not simply by way of getting work achieved, however in establishing work-life steadiness and psychological well being, notably post-pandemic.”

The complexity of environmental legislation is hard to suit right into a 12-week clinic, Eckstein stated. College students have to fulfill the consumer, conduct analysis, prepare conferences with specialists, conduct website visits and extra.

For Varnadoe, who participated in a special clinic final yr, the environmental program was solely totally different. Varnadoe was accustomed to working with a number of purchasers on particular points and wrapping up the case in a short while body.

“Having the ability to cowl quite a lot of floor with one constant consumer was actually helpful and relevant to the true observe of legislation, the place you’ve got established purchasers,” Varnadoe, who graduates subsequent month, stated. “Creating these teamwork expertise and collaboration between all of our totally different schedules and having consumer conferences on a regular basis over the course of the 12-week semester was quite a lot of enjoyable.”

The clinic is open to taking over all varieties of purchasers, together with companies and authorities companies, Eckstein stated.

“We’re not a ‘tree-hugging’ targeted clinic,” he stated. “We actually attempt to be on the very heart of the highway. We wish to work with the non-public sector, the general public sector, with municipalities and so forth, as a result of our job is to not obtain a specific consequence until it’s a specific consequence that the consumer desires … Each time, it could possibly be any individual totally different.”

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Sooner or later, Eckstein – who argued on behalf of Bolivia’s water rights in entrance of the Worldwide Court docket of Justice earlier this month – would love college students to sort out worldwide environmental legislation, if they’ll discover a subject to suit into the semester.

Largely, he desires college students to depart the course feeling like they’re ready to hit the bottom operating of their first legislation agency job.

“Once they go to a job interview or exit into the true world, they’ll say: ‘I’m not simply ebook good, I really started working on this case. I did these sorts of authorized analyses, this type of authorized analysis, for an actual life challenge,’” Eckstein stated. “These are the sorts of expertise that they’re going to should study on the job. Now, the employer goes to be extra prone to say: ‘Come on board.’”

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