Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

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The Environmental Law and Policy Clinic is training the next generation of leaders to solve environmental problems and providing access to justice in underserved communities.

In this clinic, students from Duke Law, Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, and other graduate schools develop a broad array of tools and insights from their various disciplines — law, policy, and science — while working together to handle cases using interdisciplinary approaches. 

Students develop skills in litigation, mediation, negotiation, and conflict resolution, and they often are able to contribute their own entrepreneurial solutions to environmental dilemmas. They use a collaborative approach to work on a wide variety of matters, encompassing water quality, air quality, natural resources conservation, sustainable development, public-trust resources, and environmental justice. 

Students participate in classroom seminars and site investigations, represent their clients at public hearings and agency proceedings, and are actively involved in litigation, transactional cases, and policy development. They have helped community organizations stop large polluters from damaging human health and environment. Student teams worked alongside these groups to prevent the construction of a Navy jet landing field which would have condemned an environmental justice community and to prevent the building of a huge coal-burning cement kiln next to river already heavily polluted by mercury. They have also helped develop successful policies that advance organic and sustainable agriculture and have been instrumental in shaping regulations that protect children in licensed North Carolina childcare centers from lead in drinking water.

The clinic is a joint venture of Duke Law and the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Nimasha Weliwitigoda '15

The Environmental Law and Policy Clinic provided me with the tremendous practical experience of actually working with the laws and assisting clients in resolving real environmental legal issues affecting the community and ultimately inspired me to pursue a legal career in environmental law.

Nimasha Weliwitigoda '15

Fighting for environmental justice

Students, faculty, and clients talk about two recent cases in which the clinic worked with community organizations in North Carolina to fight for environmental justice.

In the News

Clinic Faculty

Ryke Longest

Clinical Professor of Law
Director of Clinical Programs
Clinical Professor of Environmental Sciences and Policy


Michelle Benedict Nowlin

Clinical Professor of Law
Co-Director, Environmental Law and Policy Clinic


Nancy Lauer

Environmental Policy Fellow

  (919) 613-7205

Course Description
Students posing with sign
Call to Action Content

Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, 443

Under the supervision of the clinical faculty, students will work on current case and policy advocacy priorities. Cases and issues undertaken by the Clinic may include the following subject areas: water quality, air quality, natural resources conservation, endangered species, agriculture, sustainable development, public trust resources and environmental justice. Practical skills training will emphasize skills needed to counsel clients, develop evidence and advocate effectively in rule-making and litigation settings.

Get Help

We serve nonprofit organizations representing low-wealth communities throughout the United States and Africa, with a focus on clients serving the southeastern U.S. We do not represent individuals. If your community is facing an environmental problem and needs legal representation, we may be able to help. Please fill out the Contact Us form to request an intake questionnaire and find out whether your case might be a good fit with the services we provide. Organizations seeking new representation must return a completed intake questionnaire by April 1 for fall semester projects and by November 1 for spring semester projects.

Support the Clinic

Support the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic by making an online gift or pledge to further the mission of the clinic.

Environmental Law Newsletter

Find out the latest news from the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic and the Duke Environmental Law program.