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July/August 2024

Views from the Chair

Jeffery Scott Dennis


  • Discusses how SEER increased Fall and Spring Conference attendance by centering DEIB and earnestly engaging law students.
  • Highlights the efforts SEER made this year to raise the Section’s profile within the ABA and in critical international forums.
  • Extends gratitude to all Section leaders, members, and staff that contributed to SEER’s success this year.
Views from the Chair
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It’s hard to believe my year as chair is coming to a close! It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least, and one I have treasured. Will I feel some relief to have the weight of responsibility and the added tasks removed from my to-do list? Sure. But I’m also going to really miss serving our members; representing environment, energy, and resources lawyers in forums around the world; and working with our Executive Committee, Council, committee chairs and vice chairs, conference planning committees, countless volunteers, and our incredible Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) staff. It was truly a team effort. While I’ll continue to be involved and look forward to what’s next in my SEER and American Bar Association (ABA) journey, leading the Section has been the honor of a lifetime.

We had so many successes this year, starting with our efforts to build the strength of our education conferences. The 2023 Fall Conference and 2024 Spring Conference enjoyed impressive increases in attendance as we fully emerged from the pandemic years. Beyond the sheer attendance numbers, we consciously invested thought, time, and budget into making these two in-person events not just great places for continuing education but also key events for networking and making connections. We added new opportunities to engage with law students and young lawyers and foster diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. These efforts will help ensure our conferences are “the place to be” for environment, energy, and resources lawyers and professionals and will continue to grow in the future. 

We also innovated, and engaged new audiences, with our one-day conferences. The one-day hybrid virtual and in-person Clean Air Act Conference in December tested out a new approach to delivering content both online and in-person with viewing locations across the country to allow members to network in their local area. In addition, we held a one-day Disaster Recovery and Resilience Conference in Puerto Rico, an unparalleled opportunity to listen to and learn from a community that has experienced disaster recovery and resiliency issues firsthand. Putting on a hybrid, multisite event and taking SEER all the way to Puerto Rico were certainly not easy, but we learned a lot about executing on these events, heard important voices and perspectives, and produced valuable content that will stand the test of time.

SEER publications also continued to produce invaluable content for our members and publish leading volumes on key emerging topics in environment, energy, and resources law. Our book Environmental, Social, Governance: The Professional's Guide to the Law and Practice of ESG is a preeminent text on this critical subject and has been a top seller among the ABA’s titles this year. Natural Resources and Environment, Trends, and The Year in Review provided members with numerous insights and updates on key trends in our practice areas, strengthening the value of SEER membership.

We also continued to deepen our work to retain and recruit new members, improve the diversity of our leadership, and make SEER a place where everyone belongs. The Environmental Law Society Network (ELSN) continued to grow by leaps and bounds, giving us important avenues to engage with law students and introduce them to the important role SEER can play in their career and personal growth. The SEER Bridge program was expanded, providing students with mentors to help them explore career paths and transition into practice. We also prioritized diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in our conferences and events, holding “DEIB In Action” networking luncheons in association with our major conferences and devoting the opening reception to celebrating and centering DEIB in these events. As I’ve written in this column before, I strongly believe our commitment to earnestly engaging law students and to making SEER a place where everyone belongs has directly contributed to the increased attendance and success of our in-person conferences and put us on a path to grow our membership and sustain SEER for years to come.

I’m also proud of the steps we took this year to raise SEER’s profile within the ABA and in critical international forums. The ABA Environmental Justice Task Force that we spearheaded in 2021 meaningfully advanced its mission to ensure that environmental justice issues were at the forefront of the ABA’s work. SEER also hosted ABA President Mary Smith and Canadian Bar Association President John Stefaniuk for a discussion of critical environmental law, rule of law, and democracy issues at our 2024 Spring Conference. We continued to lead the ABA’s delegation to the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, bringing the critical perspectives of American lawyers and critical role of the rule of law to the discussions. SEER will also bring a new resolution on sustainable development before the ABA Board of Governors in August, updating the ABA’s policies and emphasizing the important role that lawyers play in sustainability issues. At a time when the ABA itself is changing in response to fiscal pressures and a new world of association memberships, and when the ABA’s core mission of protecting the rule of law and democracy has never been more important, I believe it is critical for our Section and our members to continue to have a strong voice in the organization. 

Finally, I’m grateful to our Executive Committee, Council, Council-related committees, and task forces for their diligent work in ensuring that the business of SEER remains sound and that we are planning and preparing for the future. Our Strategic Planning Committee led important discussions of how we are executing our Strategic Plan and tracking and measuring outcomes for members. We had task forces look at important issues like the future of in-person programming and site selection for our major conferences in a post-pandemic world, and how we can improve our budget planning and steward our financial reserves while making long-term investments in new initiatives to engage members and build the foundation for future growth. As I look into the future, this work to utilize our strong financial reserves to position SEER to meet the needs of the next generation of environment, energy, and resources lawyers and professionals will only become more critical. 

There are so many people I wish I could individually name and thank in this column for all they have done this year to support me and the Section, but I simply don’t have the space! So instead, I will just offer a heartful thank you to everyone who contributed to SEER’s success this year. I hope I have served you well, and I look forward to passing the gavel to our next Chair, Jonathan Nwagbaraocha, and to supporting him and the leaders that follow. SEER has been a critical part of my career and my life and will continue to be so far into the future. I’m proud to have left a small mark on it this year.