Twenty Questions (and Answers) About Environmental Law School Clinics

Vol. 22 No. 1

Adam Babich is a professor of law at Tulane University and directs the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.

Introduction

Environmental law school clinics are simultaneously battling headwinds and riding the breeze. The wind at our backs is the widespread—albeit belated—recognition that law schools should prepare students to practice law.1 Because environmental law clinics focus on complex regulations, administrative law, and disputes involving lots of documents, these clinics fill an important niche in the world of experiential learning.2 They provide training that is directly relevant to many law students’ future practices.3

But environmental law school clinics also face headwinds, as politicians and industry groups condemn efforts to protect the environment as “job killing.”4 With law schools and universities looking to government and corporations for money, it can seem out of step with institutional priorities for clinics to represent ordinary citizens suing government or corporations to protect the environment. In addition, educational institutions’ constituents and administrators can find it difficult to wrap their minds around the fact that law school clinics’ duty of loyalty is to clients, not to the institutions that employ the clinicians.5

In this context, it may be useful to review some common questions about environmental law school clinics, and corresponding answers.

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