Michelle Benedict Nowlin

Senior Lecturing Fellow
Supervising Attorney, Environmental Law and Policy Clinic


Michelle Nowlin joined the Duke Law faculty in June 2008, as a supervising attorney and senior lecturing fellow for the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.  She supervises clinic students from the Law School and the Nicholas School of the Environment and co-teaches the seminar portion of the clinic.  She also teaches a course in food and agricultural law and policy.

Nowlin has dedicated her career to the protection of natural resources and public health through the practice of environmental law.  Prior to joining Duke’s faculty, she was a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Chapel Hill.  At SELC, she represented nonprofit environmental and community organizations throughout the southeast.  She led SELC's Hog Industry Project to develop a comprehensive regulatory program for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, drafted legislation to improve regulation of the inter-basin diversion of water, and represented organizations in federal, state and administrative courts to protect coastal resources, wetlands, and public lands.  For her advocacy work, she was named an Honorary Warden by the North Carolina Audubon Society in 2006, and received the Bill Holman Award for Environmental Advocacy, awarded by the Conservation Council of North Carolina, in 1997.  She completed a fellowship awarded by the Ford Foundation and worked in private practice for two years in Washington, D.C. prior to joining SELC.

Nowlin’s clinic practice focuses on the protection of endangered species and water quality, wetlands regulation, environmental justice, environmental impact assessment, and sustainable agricultural production.  She enjoys working with and mentoring students, whose enthusiasm, energy and idealism spark creative approaches to solving current environmental problems and inequities.

Nowlin is a member of the North Carolina Bar and the D.C. Bar, and is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of North Carolina, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  She has served on the boards of directors of several nonprofit and civic organizations, including a term as chair of the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association.  She was named a Neighborhood Hero by Durham’s Inter-neighborhood Council in 2007, in recognition of her community work.  Nowlin currently serves on the boards of the Duke Campus Farm and Toxic Free NC.

Nowlin earned her B.A. with Highest Honors from the University of Florida, where she was also inducted into Florida Blue Key and Phi Beta Kappa. She earned a dual J.D./M.A. from Duke Law School and the School of the Environment in 1992.  While at Duke, she was on the founding committee and served as editor-in-chief of the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum.

Nowlin lives in Durham with her husband and three spirited daughters.