Since its inception in 1989, the Environmental Law Clinic has given Tulane J.D. students an unparalleled opportunity to engage in faculty-supervised work in the practice of environmental law.
The Clinic has become involved in hundreds of cases and proceedings on behalf of almost 200 different community organizations, ranging from local environmentalists to neighborhood civic and housing organizations to municipal water providers. Clinic representation has taken place in state and federal trial and appellate courts, and in local, state, and federal agencies. The docket of the clinic is as varied as the environmental problems, involving issues of pollution discharges, wetlands protection, and urban zoning.
"In the environmental clinic, my favorite thing probably [was working] on a case called Agriculture Street in New Orleans...over time there were about 100 families that lived on a landfill in the 9th Ward and even after Katrina, they’ve been living on toxic land, they have garbage popping up through their front yard. A lot of them have very high cancer rates, and so getting to work on that and actually going out to the 9th Ward, . . .and meeting real people in the community has been invaluable to me, and feeling like I’m connected to the city and I’m not just working all the time, I’m getting out there and making connections and hopefully helping people." Alison Skopec (L’18), Winston & Strawn, New York, NY
Assisted by related courses in advocacy and by continuing critiques of their written and oral presentations, Tulane environmental clinic students are responsible for developing and maintaining contacts with clients; investigating and developing the facts; identifying, interviewing, and preparing the necessary witnesses; analyzing the legal issues, drafting documents, pleadings, and briefs; and presenting the case to the court or agency. Students do not work as law clerks or as assistants to the clinic’s supervising attorneys. Rather, students function as student-attorneys and, in accordance with the student practice rules, are responsible for client representation under the supervision of the clinic’s lawyers. When a hearing or trial is held, it is the student-attorney, not the supervising attorney, who prepares the case and presents the evidence and arguments to the court or agency. This is not simulation; it is the real thing.
The Community Engagement Program of the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic strives to ensure that clients develop and maintain an overall strategy to achieve their goals and that they are actively participating in their cases. This work involves helping clients to understand the scope of the environmental quality and enforcement problems that exist and the actions they can take to effect change. The Community Engagement Program assists clients in working with the clinic’s staff attorneys and technical experts to identify the best remedies and to become involved in the environmental decision-making process.
"The number one thing I’ve learned is communication... learning how to communicate with people, reply to your emails on time, be friendly, don’t be a jerk to people. I got to carry that with me to every job I’ve done after clinic, and it’s just taught me an invaluable lesson that you need to be proactive and you need to communicate and be on time."
Alison Skopec (L’18), Winston & Strawn, New York, NY