October 10, 2011
Thanks to my PILP stipend I was able to spend the summer working for Earthjustice, in Seattle. Earthjustice is a nonprofit law firm that provides legal services to public interest environmental organizations, usually for little or no cost. Formerly the legal branch of the Sierra Club, Earthjustice now has eight offices around the country, and is engaged in timely and often high-profile litigation on behalf of the environment. While the Seattle office handles a large and varied caseload, many of the cases are brought under the Endangered Species Act; several Earthjustice attorneys in that office have participated in groundbreaking ESA litigation concerning the spotted owl, salmon recovery, and management of the northwest’s remaining old-growth forests and wilderness areas.
While Earthjustice is a very effective advocacy group in its own right, it primarily operates much like a private firm of litigators, handling cases on behalf of clients in federal and state court. The bulk of my work as an intern consisted of legal research in support of active cases, often working with one attorney at a time on a tight deadline. I frequently researched very detailed and technical points of environmental or administrative law, and my work was often used in the preparation of briefs, motions, or other documents. I also spent a great deal of time working on strategies for the recovery of the southern resident Orca whale, recently listed as endangered under the ESA. I was able to work closely with several clients, including marine biologists and other advocates, in the preparation of several lengthy Freedom of Information Act requests to federal agencies whose actions in Puget Sound may impact the Orcas. I also prepared legal memos and talking points to clients concerning the proposed designation of critical habitat for the Orcas.
My summer with Earthjustice allowed me the opportunity to experience public-interest environmental litigation first hand. I was able to work closely with some highly experienced and dedicated attorneys on issues of great importance to the future of the northwest’s remaining wild species and unspoiled landscapes. Thanks to PILP, I was able to support the important work of regional environmental advocates, and I am better prepared for a future in environmental law.