At Emory University, students get a real-world look at the practice of environmental law through pro-bono legal assistance to clients who seek to protect and restore the natural environment.
At Emory University, students get a real-world look at the practice of environmental law through pro-bono legal assistance to clients who seek to protect and restore the natural environment. Responsibility and ethics in the classroom become first-hand knowledge as students interact with clients, community groups, government personnel and opposing counsel.
In addition to performing common law school tasks such as writing legal memoranda, briefs and pleadings, students in the Turner Clinic participate in client meetings, depositions, negotiations and the development of case strategy. Students also work on legislative and policy issues, on both the local and the state level.
The goal: Train law students to be effective environmental attorneys with high ethical standards and a sensitivity to the natural environment. The litigation, transactional and advocacy skills they learn are important in all areas of civil and regulatory practice.
In one project, three law students worked with the Atlanta Mayor's Office of Sustainability and Georgia Organics on a collaborative effort to promote urban agriculture in the city. They studied urban agriculture in 16 cities across the country and reported on benefits such as Increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables, community building and restoring abandoned properties. They then consulted on next steps, including drafting proposed changes to the city’s zoning code and publishing the final report.
The clinic was established in 1998 with a Turner Foundation grant and has received the support of other foundations and individuals for its pro bono legal counsel to nonprofits, community groups and citizens who otherwise would lack legal representation. In September 2011, the clinic received a $40,000 Turner Foundation grant to support the clinic’s pro bono work. The grant allows the clinic to continue handling its diverse docket that touches on difficult environmental issues—energy and climate change, endangered species protection, water and coastal resource protection, natural resource allocation, environmental justice, urban agriculture and sustainability.
Students often take the clinic as a capstone to their studies at Emory Law, but they may also gain experience through field placements at institutions such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Southern Environmental Law Center. The clinic has prepared recent graduates for work at job placements in all levels of government, with environmental not-for-profits, and with private law firms. Through interdisciplinary agreements with Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and the Department of Environmental Studies, students may earn joint J.D. and M.P.H. degrees.