June 06, 2023

My (Admittedly Odd) Journey into a Legal Career

Chris Kerkhoff, ’22, describes how transferring to LC set him on a career path toward environmental law.

I’ll begin this story when I was a freshman at DePaul University. Like many other counterparts at this time, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life! I had switched my major too many times to count (from Communications, to Journalism, to History), and I was feeling somewhat lost. It took moving across the county and transferring to Lewis & Clark College to discover and hone my passion for law, specifically environmental law.

I’d always been passionate about the environment, telling friends of mine “someone should do something about X or Y issue!” until one day it hit me that, well, it might as well be me. I entered Lewis & Clark as a junior, being very unfamiliar with the PNW and school as a whole, but I was welcomed with open arms by Prof. Proctor, who served not only as my advisor and ENVS Chair, but as a colleague to me as well. I knew he was in my corner no matter what, exposing me to new modes and methods of thinking and viewing the environment.

Prof. Proctor sparked the flames that would eventually burn into my desire to pursue a career in environmental law. After graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies, with the support of the entire ENVS program and fellow classmates, I thought I was ready to immediately jump into law school. Yet, I felt I lacked professional experience that would help me throughout this pursuit. Since then, I’ve been working at the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, which has been quite the experience to say the least! Truth be told, with my uncle working as a public defender in Pittsburgh, I was somewhat keener on joining that side of the aisle but working at the DA’s office has allowed me to discover the type of lawyer I’d like to be one day (or in some cases the type of lawyer I’d like NOT to be)!

Now, as I hope to attend the University of Montana Law School in 2024, I’m continuing my legal career, after recently being hired by the Missoula County Courthouse as one of their Justice Court Clerks. My advice to anyone thinking of pursuing a law degree after graduating: there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this journey! Whatever path you end up taking, no matter how many bumps in the road you might find, that’s the path you were always meant to take!