WilmerHale gift supports Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

April 21, 2009Duke Law News

A $10,000 gift from WilmerHale to Duke Law School's Environmental Law and Policy Clinic will assist with the clinic's continuing efforts to provide legal support for nonprofit environmental organizations and to prepare students for the practice of environmental law.

"The effectiveness of the environmental lawyer is dependent on the ability to work with a team of environmental science experts, which includes understanding and being able to use the same tools that the experts use," says Ryke Longest, director of the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. "These types of gifts allow us to pay for scientific, photographic, and environmental equipment and allow students to get beyond the walls of the Law School and into the real practice, into the courtroom, into the environment."

A joint venture between the Law School and the Nicholas School of Environment and Earth Sciences, the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic trains students with work on current cases and provides support to clients involved in environmental conflicts. The clinic addresses such issues as water and air quality, natural resources conservation, sustainable development, public trust resources, and environmental justice.

"As they train and educate law students, Duke Law is working to make sure these students are prepared for the next phase of their careers, and life outside the classroom," says Jamie Gorelick, a partner in WilmerHale's Regulatory and Government Affairs and Litigation/Controversy Departments. "Investing in our next generation of attorneys is critical, and we are happy to support the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic in this effort as they work to ensure the lawyers of the future are exposed to new developments, collaboration, and training that will help them to succeed."

Clinic students recently worked with representatives of the New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee to ensure that the North Carolina Department of Transportation exercises proper care as part of a bridge replacement project to prevent damage to the New Hope Creek, one of the cleanest in the Jordan Lake watershed. The clinic continues to help the Advisory Committee with its efforts to have other issues addressed through the use of proper environmental planning processes. Earlier clinic efforts helped convince DOT to withdraw a problematic bridge design that would have harmed water quality and habitat.

"Tomorrow's environmental practitioners will confront an even greater set of challenges than those who were present at the formative stages of the environmental movement," says Jeffrey Davidson '77, a partner at WilmerHale who has taught clinic classes and been part of an informal advisory group regarding its operation and direction. "The earlier that a student is exposed to the factual underpinnings and inherent ambiguities in an environmental matter, the better lawyer he or she will become."