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Environmental Legal Clinic Strengthened By Second-Semester Students

The ENRLC is fortunate to have five outstanding students who have returned for a second semester at the Clinic this spring – Juliette Balette ‘13, Mitty Barnard ‘13, Jillian Bernstein ‘13, Mary Olive ‘13, and Rachel Stevens ‘13.  Each of these second-semester students has assumed responsibility for one of the Clinic’s complex projects, such as the proposed tar sands pipeline through Vermont, the GMO labeling bill pending before the Vermont legislature, or the Act 250 challenge to the proposed asphalt plant in Graniteville.

“I have learned more about lawyering at the ENRLC than through any other experience in my law school career,” says Juliette Balette, head of the clean water investigations team.  “I am deepening my knowledge of the Clean Water Act and other laws, applying these laws creatively to move my cases forward, and learning so much from the Clinic attorneys.”

“Working at the Clinic for a second semester is an invaluable experience for us and for our clients,” added Mitty Barnard, leader of the Clinic’s coal teams.  “Our clients benefit from our extensive understanding of their cases, and we benefit from an enhanced experience that gives us an edge in the shifting job market.”

Similarly, a deep commitment to her clients led Rachel Stevens to return.   “My clients’ enthusiasm for and recognition of my work motivated me to continue advocating for them,” said Stevens, who leads the Clinic’s Graniteville-Act 250 team.

In past years the Clinic has had occasional second-semester students, but VLS recently formalized an Advanced Clinic course that Clinic Director Doug Ruley is encouraging more students to take advantage of.   “Second-semester students enhance our representation of our clients and our educational mission,” said Ruley.   He added that the new Center for Legal Services provides plenty of room for first- and second-semester clinicians, and students may receive as much credit at the Clinic as they choose.

The Advanced Clinic option also encourages greater reflection on the multidisciplinary nature of most environmental litigation.  “My cases demand that I address multiple legal and environmental issues together, including land use, clean energy, and climate change” said Mary Olive, who leads the tar sands pipeline team.

“Before working at the clinic, I used to tell my friends and family that I was tired of learning the law; I wanted to learn how to be a lawyer.  That is exactly what the clinic is all about,” said Jillian Bernstein, leader of the GMO labeling team.  “I stayed for a second semester so I could continue to learn and grow as a lawyer in a safe environment where I can take the lead on my cases but still have help or backup when I need it.”  

Doug Ruley
Associate Professor of Law, Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic

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