Environmental Law & Policy Lab

Why an environmental policy lab at Loyola Law?

The Gulf region generally, and Louisiana specifically, are renowned nationally and even internationally for fishing, boating, fabulous food and a blend of awe-inspiring natural environments with unique developed areas. We are also synonymous with devastating hurricanes, oil and gas exploration, a large marine “dead zone”, food deserts and, recently, the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Though it may not be pervasively evident, our surroundings play an enormous part in the quality of our everyday lives.  Job opportunities, what we eat, and how our communities function and grow are all influenced by the world around us. Promoting sustainable use of natural resources and protecting the environment are therefore critical to ensure a thriving economy, ample and safe food system and human health.

We need well-trained, effective advocates to champion our natural environment and the health, safety and welfare of communities through every available means. Well before any inkling of litigation, most environmental issues move through a lengthy policy process, and it is the outcome of that process – a rule, a statute, a policy – that is then often challenged in court for any number of reasons. With capable, engaged advocates involved throughout the many stages of the various policy processes, there will be more opportunities to influence and effect law earlier and in addition to at trial.

Experiential learning classes in many law schools focus largely — and some exclusively — on litigation. Pre-litigation environmental policy is often overlooked, yet it is an incredibly important part of our legal system. Although in practice, many new lawyers regularly deal with administrative and regulatory processes, most go their entire law school careers learning little, if anything at all, about this critical component of U.S. law. Even fewer gain any practical experience in this area during law school. It is vital that students understand the mechanics of the policy world from stakeholder processes to regulatory development and implementation, to fully prepare them for meaningful participation in the environmental advocacy field. It is equally important for students to gain awareness, and personally experience the manner in which influences external to legal processes, such as media and community organizing, can contribute to and change final legal outcomes. These can even prevent expensive and often lengthy litigation with uncertain results.

Lab mission statement:

To develop professional, capable and ethical lawyers who will have a holistic understanding of and be able to effectively engage in environmental policy matters worldwide. Through a comprehensive learning experience, including interactions with actual clients, we will support and promote engagement in critical issues that directly affect the natural environment and the health, safety and welfare of communities

Course description:

This is a unique course in which students, individually or in teams, work under the supervision of skilled attorneys with years of city, state, federal and international environmental advocacy experience on a semester-long project with real non-profit, or community clients. Topics may include: oil and gas drilling, endangered species protection, climate change, urban agriculture, fisheries management, and more. The course walks students through the full process of representing a client on policy and/or legislative matters. Each class focuses on a specific skill—drafting and signing client retainers, crafting legislation, lobbying, writing Freedom of Information Act requests, using press releases and radio/TV interviews—as an advocacy tool, and more. Activities may include: drafting agency regulations or state or federal legislation; organizing community action; and participating in stakeholder working groups, agency or legislative hearings, or other meetings and events. The course includes weekly discussions on procedure and related environmental law and advocacy issues, supplemented by guest speaker presentations. These complement the hands-on, “real work” activities and provide diverse experiences for students that will prepare them to engage in this field post graduation. Students completing the course earn three experiential learning credits. Space is very limited - usually up to 6 students. Enrollment requires Professor approval.

For more information, contact Marianne Cufone at mcufone@loyno.edu