By Cade Carmichael, J.D. ’17
I must admit that during the 1L clinical registration period, I was a bit worried about transitioning into the “life” of a clinical student. Sure, I had put many hours into my Student Practice Organization work as a 1L, but being a clinical student seemed a bit daunting. That said, I knew that I wanted to register for a clinic, specifically the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic (ELPC). Of course, it wasn’t until I got started with ELPC that my 1L fears were put to rest.
For starters, despite wanting to be involved with the clinic, I had no background in environmental law – at least not in comparison to many of my peers. Turns out, this wasn’t a problem in the least, and my guess is that “lacking a background” isn’t a barrier to many of HLS’ clinics, precisely because they are here to give us substantive experience and to improve as lawyers. In the case of ELPC, there was a conscious effort on the part of the clinic to get me involved even before the semester had started! Through early discussions with clinic supervisors, I found a real opportunity to craft the kind of clinical experience I had hoped to have.
Since I started, I have dealt with wonderful projects that I never would have expected, including everything from a petition to the Office of Management and Budget at the White House designed to reduce CO2 emissions from university research laboratories, to researching questions of whether synthetic rhinoceros horn is “derived” from a real animal product, to analyzing applications of the “Rights of Nature” section of the Ecuadorian constitution, to revising decades old noise ordinances in order to bring them into the 21st century. These and other projects have entailed duties ranging from direct client interaction, to more high-level regulatory research, which is precisely what has made my time with the clinic so enjoyable: every project is a unique experience. In turn, I’ve not only improved my skills in areas that might be expected, such as writing memos, but I’ve also had a chance to explore completely new areas such as writing portions of a suggested regulatory amendment and digesting a flurry of ideas coming from a room full of motivated clients.
When looking back at these past two semesters with ELPC, I realize that they have been the most interesting and engaging portion of my law school experience thus far. So if I had one piece of advice for anyone considering a clinic, it would be to go for it, as your horizons will certainly expand as a result!