Stanback gift facilitates expansion, reach of Environmental Clinic

December 6, 2013Duke Law News

Stanback Fellows, 213Jennifer Nearhood ’13, left, and Shannon Arata ’13 are starting their careers as Stanback Felllows in the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.

A leadership gift from Duke University alumni Fred and Alice Stanback has allowed the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic to expand its educational reach and improve its client service goals. Clinical Professor Ryke Longest, who directs the clinic, said the gift is being used to fund salaries for post-graduate clinical fellows, support pilot curricular initiatives, and expand financial aid available to students interested in public service careers in the field of environmental law.

“Without the generous support of the Stanbacks, these new initiatives would not have been possible,” said Longest.

Their gift is in keeping, Longest noted, with the Stanbacks’ longtime support of summer internships for Duke University students. The Stanback Internship Program, administered by the Nicholas School of the Environment, provides a $5,000 stipend for 11 weeks of work with one of more than 50 Stanback-approved environmental organizations; 10 Duke Law students worked in Stanback-supported internships in the summer of 2013.

Inaugural clinical fellows Shannon Arata ’13 and Jennifer Nearhood ’13 are assisting current clinic students and volunteers from the Environmental Law Society, as well as serving clients directly. Clinic alumni, both Arata and Nearhood also enjoyed Stanback-supported summer legal internships with environmental organizations when they were law students. As clinic fellows, they are continuing on cases they were first introduced to as students, working on the issues in greater depth and with a greater level of responsibility. Their expertise also will provide the clients with a deeper level of professional service.

“Both Shannon and Jennifer demonstrated exceptional initiative and talent as advanced clinical students and are developing into excellent environmental lawyers,” said Longest. “They are serving clients and moving cases forward when students and members of the clinical faculty are performing other Law School duties. They also are engaging other students interested in environmental law, but not yet able to enroll in the clinic.” Clinical courses become available to students in the spring semester of their second year at Duke Law.

“To say the least, funding from the Stanbacks — both through the internship program and the fellowship — has been instrumental to my training and success as an environmental lawyer,” said Nearhood, who held legal internships at Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council during her 1L and 2L summers, respectively.

“Through the fellowship, I have the opportunity to work on a complex case that I first encountered as a student. Because I now have more time and experience, I have taken the lead on several issues as the clinic develops a long-term litigation strategy. I have also started on several new cases that will allow me to work with diverse clients and expand my knowledge of key statutes for natural resource protection. Overall, the fellowship provides important litigation and policy experience that will help me as I look for my next opportunity in the field of environmental law.”

The Stanback gift to the clinic also facilitated the creation of a course on the legal and environmental issues associated with exploration and production of hydrocarbons from shale, also known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” Longest taught the course in an abbreviated form at Duke’s D.C. Summer Institute on Law and Policy in July and is developing the syllabus further.

Increasing financial aid available to qualified students committed to public interest careers in environmental law, a third initiative funded by the Stanback gift, helped Duke recruit a talented student from Brazil, Stela Herschman, to the one-year LLM program, said Longest. Prior to coming to Duke, Herschman had worked as a legal adviser in the environmental prosecutor’s office in her home country.

“Stela plans to enroll in the clinic in the spring in pursuit of her certificate in environmental law,” said Michelle Nowlin JD/MA ’92, supervising attorney in the clinic. “She’s told us the clinic is the primary reason she chose to come to Duke for her LLM. She worked as a legal adviser in the environmental prosecutor’s office in the state of Rio de Janeiro prior to coming here, and we will benefit tremendously from her perspective and experience. We hope she will likewise benefit from learning about the different model of environmental law in the United States.”

Fred and Alice StanbackFred and Alice Stanback

Graduates, respectively, of Duke’s Trinity College and Women’s College, Fred and Alice Stanback have been widely lauded for their support of environmental conservation efforts and causes. Fred Stanback has most recently been honored with the National Parks Conservation Association’s debut Sequoia Award, which honors individuals who have enhanced the advocacy organization’s efforts to protect the National Park System.

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