PUBLISHED:June 01, 2010

Duke Law awards first environmental law certificates

Three LLM graduates in the Class of 2010 were the first to obtain Duke Law’s new certificate in environmental law.

Ismael Barrios, Max Larrain, and Clemens Schmied completed a specific track of courses and research to earn the certificate, which was developed last year to provide international students an opportunity to specialize in a quickly growing area of international law.

“Environmental law is expanding at a high rate in my country,” said Barrios, a construction-industry lawyer who hopes to work in the field when he returns to Peru after a few years abroad. “Peru has vast natural resources, and its economy depends strongly on industries such as mining, fishing, and agriculture. All these require specialized lawyers in the area and also institutions and laws to correctly manage our natural resources.”

The interdisciplinary nature of the coursework he received at Duke was particularly valuable, he added.

“Especially in the seminars, the discussions reflected different types of concerns, and law students could take advantage of a really deep technical view from various areas,” he said. “It [also] is of great help that the faculty members have both an outstanding academic perspective and past practical experience.”

“Duke’s strength in environmental law is very attractive to international students,” said Jennifer Maher, assistant dean for international studies. “In addition to the Law School’s leadership in the area, we have a very close interdisciplinary relationship with the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Sanford School of Public Policy, and the Fuqua School of Business, all of which provide deep resources for study and research in environmental issues. The certificate program allows students to take advantage of these strengths and earn formal recognition for the specialized knowledge and skills they develop.”

The certificate program requires a combination of courses that include Environmental Law and Readings in Environmental Law, a course for certificate program students focusing on important readings in the field. As part of the Reading in Environmental Law course this spring, students studied briefs on a case handled by the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, attended a court hearing, and met afterward with the clinical professor to discuss the legal issues at hand and the differences among various judicial systems.

During two semesters, students must take a total of nine credits in environmental law, in addition to 15 credits through the standard LLM curriculum, and complete a substantial research project in a related field. See the program’s web page to learn more.

Schmied, a native of Austria, said the environmental law certificate program factored into his decision to attend Duke Law. “I knew that Duke Law School had an excellent reputation in environmental law before I came to Durham,” he said. “And of course the fact that I could be one of the first to receive the environmental law certificate was one of [the reasons] I chose to go to this wonderful law school.”

After taking the New York bar exam this summer, Schmied plans to practice environmental law in Austria. “The certificate is surely going to help me, since not many people in Austria are educated in both Austrian and U.S. environmental law,” he said.