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Tulane Law student, an avid environmentalist, logs 566 hours of pro bono service to win LSBA award

May 06, 2024 10:45 AM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu

3L Charlotte Phillips is the 2024 LSBA Pro Bono Award winner for her impressive 566 hours of pro bono service during her three years of law school.


A passionate environmentalist who wants to advocate for the preservation of natural habitats and endangered species is Tulane Law’s recipient of the Louisiana State Bar Association Pro Bono Award, the highest award in the legal community for student service.

Charlotte Phillips (L’24), in three years of law school has racked up an impressive 566+ hours of pro bono service, more than 11 times the required for graduation. The LSBA Pro Bono Award is given to one student from each of the state’s four law schools for their outstanding commitment to public service.

Not surprisingly, Phillips’ work has been centered on her passion for environmental law, and she served with the Louisiana Attorney General’s office in the Natural Resources section and in the U.S. Department of Justice in the Environment & Natural Resources Division. There, she assisted with environmental litigation efforts.

“Even though I knew coming to Tulane that I wanted to do environmental advocacy, my experience in these roles confirmed that I was in the right place and on the right track to fulfill that dream,” said Phillips. “Through my pro bono service, I got to meet so many talented lawyers and mentors who inspired me. They made me feel like the career I wanted was possible. My pro bono work also showed me that litigation is a powerful tool for advancing environmental causes.”

Originally from Darien, Conn., Phillips received her undergraduate degree from Lafayette College and a master’s degree in education from Touro University. She spent some time as a Kindergarten teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y., but wanted to follow her passion for environmental causes. At Tulane, she has served as the editor-in-chief of the  Environmental Law Journal, has been a student attorney with the Environmental Law Clinic, and a legal assistant with the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy. 

Phillips recalls that during her pro bono work for the state Attorney General, she was asked to write up a memo in just two days assessing a case involving an oil and gas company’s orphaned well blew which had blown out. The issue was whether the company’s actions made them liable.

“My manager ended up using my work in the final brief,” said Phillips. “That experience stands out to me because all of the research and writing I had done in school up to that point was all abstract and for purely academic purposes. It was really exciting to be involved in a real environmental issue -- holding the oil and gas industry accountable for pollution -- and to see my research and writing used in a court document. It gave me the confidence to feel like I could do this work.”

Phillips, as a student attorney in the Environmental Law Clinic, also presented oral arguments in court on behalf of clients challenging industrial expansion in fence-line communities disproportionately affected by toxic air pollution.

“It was an honor to represent local leaders and be part of the effort to bring environmental justice to these communities,” said Phillips. “In addition to the incredible people at the clinic who mentored me, I credit the litigation skills I developed through my pro bono service for preparing me to be the advocate I hope to become. I look forward to furthering this work and continuing to grow as an environmental advocate.”

After graduation, Phillips will be working in Denver as a Legal Fellow at Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation nonprofit that litigates under federal environmental laws to protect and restore species and their habitat.

In addition to Phillips, a number of students with exceptional pro bono service received the Jackson-Ryan Award for their dedication and service to nonprofits and community organizations during the annual pro bono luncheon. The 3Ls honored with the award are:

Steven AntonSteven Anton, who gave 398.10 hours of service combined to the Colorado Attorney General, Natural Resources & Environment Section, the South Carolina Environmental Law Project and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.



Rowan_Bienes-AllenRowan Bienes-Allen, 223 hours combined to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Clinic (VITA) student coordinator, The Sixth Amendment Center, Koerner Law Firm (Point Aux Chenes Tribe French Language Public School), Orleans Public Defenders (OPD), Mobilization for Justice, Louisiana Trans Advocates.


Caylin GrosseCaylin Grosse, who gave 284.50 hours combined to the Tulane University Legal Assistance Program (TULAP), the Orleans Public Defenders and the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center (LaFHAC).



Nuwani IrizarryNuwani Irizarry, who gave 482 hours combined to the Tulane University Legal Assistance Program (TULAP), the Orleans Parish District Attorney and the Innocence Project New Orleans.



Elizabeth Lansdowne, who gave a total of 386 hours to The Ella Project and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) - Appeals Board.

Madison NorrisMadison Norris, who gave a whopping 530.90 hours of service to the Orleans Parish District Attorney (OPDA) and Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jay McCallum.



Kayla OgdenKayla Ogden, who gave 259 hours of service to the Louisiana Center for Childrens' Rights (LCCR), Michigan State Appellate Defender Office, Juvenile Lifer Unit and the Koerner Law Firm (Point Aux Chenes Tribe French Language Public School).