PUBLISHED:October 01, 2014

Postcards from the practice: Stanback interns reflect on summer work in environmental advocacy

Twelve Duke Law students spent their summer engaged in environmental advocacy, law, and policy as Stanback interns. Established by Duke University alumni Fred and Alice Stanback and administered, campus-wide, by the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Stanback Internship Program supports students in up to 11 weeks of fulltime work at targeted environmental organizations, allowing them to develop skills that are transferable to a wide range of practice areas.

David Schwartz ’15 
Southern Environmental Law Center 

Chapel Hill, N.C.

One of my chief areas of interest in environmental law is energy production and the challenge of guiding a responsible transition from unsustainable fossil fuel use to a renewable energy economy, and so I was immediately interested in becoming involved with the SELC's work in addressing the slew of environmental problems resulting from the aging coal-fired power plants in North Carolina and the Southeast.

The work I am most proud of involved the N.C. Senate's proposed plan to eliminate all non-federally required ambient air pollution monitors from the state, which would have severely handicapped North Carolina's ability to track and monitor changes in air pollution trends throughout the State.  Specifically, I helped SELC attorneys determine exactly which monitors were threatened with removal, which, in turn, allowed the SELC's geospatial analyst to create a detailed map of all the monitors across the state that demonstrated visually the severe impact the proposed legislation would have.  The map was distributed to legislators and concerned citizens and eventually the air monitor provision was removed from the legislation.  It was wonderful to see my work have such an immediate impact. 

My SELC internship gave me the opportunity to really hone my legal research and writing skills. Many of my legal research assignments involved topics that were entirely new to me, so my work allowed me to essentially learn by doing.  More specifically, I gained an excellent working knowledge of the Clean Water Act through my time with the SELC that I am certain will serve me quite well in my future endeavors in the field of environmental and natural resources law. 

Kyle Carlson ’16
Environmental Defense Fund
Raleigh, N.C.

At the Environmental Defense Fund I was able to do extensive legal research, draft portions of an appellate brief, and monitor legislative developments. I was particularly proud of my drafting work on a brief for fisheries litigation in the Ninth Circuit. We supported the permitting system put in place by the federal government to help the stock of Pacific whiting in the Pacific Ocean off the West Coast.

My internship gave me a chance to develop my writing skills, to interact with legal professionals, and to work with outside counsel. I made great contacts that I have already used to my benefit in interviews this fall.

Oliver Frey ’16
Defenders of Wildlife
Washington, D.C.

I have been interested in environmental law, and specifically Endangered Species Act litigation, for a while. Defenders of Wildlife is one of the few groups that really focuses on this area of law, so it was a great fit for me. I particularly appreciated the opportunity to be involved in the work Defenders is doing on red wolves in North Carolina. It hits pretty close to home, and this is an issue where I could see the [positive] results of the organization’s work. I also greatly appreciated gaining insight into the day-to-day lives of people in this field, as well as into the general practice of environmental law.