Reflections from the Environmental Law Section 2022 Diversity & Inclusion Fellows
By Jessi E. Hafer Fierro
The Environmental Law Section congratulates the law students selected for the Section’s 2022 summer Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship program.
The Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship Program provides law students the opportunity to spend eight to 10 weeks over the summer practicing environmental, energy, land use, and/or natural resources law at a participating government agency or public interest organization. Each of the selected fellows received a stipend, placement at a participating agency or organization, the opportunity to receive professional coaching, and mentorship.
More information on the program is available at: https://calawyers.org/section/environmental-law/fellowships/
Several of our 2022 Fellows have generously agreed to share their experiences in the program below. Congratulations to all!
Student comments have been slightly edited.
Elizabeth Chi, UC Davis
Placed with Communities for a Better Environment
“I had an incredibly rewarding summer at CBE. I worked with several different attorneys on a pretty wide range of issues, and it was really inspiring to see lawyers work hand in hand with the local community in strategizing ways to keep the community safe.
My favorite part of this fellowship experience has to be the people I've met — the other fellows, as well as the attorneys and fellow interns at CBE. It has been so invigorating to be surrounded by like-minded people who are so motivated, kind, creative, and good at what they do. Everyone was so eager to make sure the interns had a good experience.”
Drake Goodson, UC Berkeley
Placed with the Environmental Defense Fund
“I had the opportunity to work on a range of issues related to the transition to electric vehicles, which required me to engage heavily with the federal and state rulemaking process. I worked with federal and state agency rules, legislative materials, executive orders, policy papers, and technical scientific literature. I built technical and policy expertise in a rapidly developing legal area and produced work products for supervisors, sometimes within hours.
The fellowship was amazing. I was able to connect with many inspiring and helpful mentors in the Bay Area, some of whom I feel will continue to be invested in my career. Furthermore, the stipend supporting my public interest work was actually extremely helpful in making this opportunity happen. I enjoyed the company of the other fellows. I feel like we were a good cohort, and I am invested in seeing how their careers develop as well.”
Chelsea Lee, UCLA
Placed with the Natural Resources Defense Council
“At NRDC, I was able to work on a variety of different legal research and writing projects and had the opportunity to speak with and meet attorneys across NRDC's offices. Writing was a core component of every project at NRDC, whether it was reviewing documents with information to be sent to coalition partners or drafting memoranda assessing the legal viability of claims. It was helpful to get feedback on drafts. The best part of the Fellowship experience at NRDC was the strong sense of community at the Santa Monica office. It was a wonderful experience to work with and learn from our intern cohort, intern supervisors, and attorneys. Through all of our assignments and conversations, the office's commitment to community-centered lawyering was clear and present, and I enjoyed that my first legal experience was in such a motivating and encouraging environment.
I enjoyed the fellowship program and getting to hear from CLA ELS section members and attorneys.”
Jasmine Robinson, UCLA
Placed with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research
“I mainly worked with the OPR’s Legal Team on their CEQA work. I really enjoyed my time with OPR. I enjoyed connecting with and meeting different folks at the organization. The most rewarding experiences related to EJ policy work, which I had specifically requested to do. I was able to improve on basic lawyering skills such as strategy discussions, stakeholder interviews, the rulemaking process, and basic research and writing. I feel like a more competent future lawyer and environmental lawyer.
I really thought the program was great. You get great support, opportunities, and connections. The mentorship aspect, reception, and virtual panels and discussions were meaningful. You get great environmental law experience as a whole. Having CLA intentionally cultivate DIVERSE environmental lawyers for the next generation is great. These types of programs really do help diverse, marginalized, historically underrepresented, and first-generation students.”
Thomas Han, University of Southern California
Placed with Earthjustice
“Most of my assignments involved researching a specific climate or clean energy issue and drafting a legal memorandum for an attorney on the California Regional Office team. I gained sharper research and writing skills, which I am confident will make me an effective litigator.
The reception at Holland & Knight was absolutely a highlight of the fellowship program. It was an empowering and reassuring experience for me. It was empowering to know that the California Lawyers Association and all the other attendees were genuinely supportive and invested in our generation of environmental attorneys. It was reassuring to remember that I was not alone and that the greater community was committed to the same issues.”
Julie Tolmie, UC Davis
Placed with the Sierra Club
Jessi E. Hafer Fierro is the immediate past chair of the Environmental Law Section.