With over 50 active members and three highly attended, first-rate events, it was a good year for the Environmental Law Society (ELS).
Funded in large part by generous grants from the Environmental Law and Land Use Section of the Florida Bar, ELS hosted a panel on careers in environmental law, a guest lecture about the prosecution of environmental crimes, and a luncheon in honor of Earth Day 2014.
Students had the opportunity to hear from and speak to practitioners who focused on a variety of topics related to environmental law during the “Careers in Environmental Law Panel,” co-hosted by the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund and The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Law Student Division. Panelists included Carolyn Ansay, Former General Counsel of South Florida Water Management District, John Barkett, Partner at Shook, Hardy, and Bacon and Adjunct Professor at the University of Miami, Gary Winston, Assistant State Attorney in the Environmental Crimes Unit at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, and Miami Law alumna Jane Graham, Policy Manager of Everglades Conservation at Audubon of Florida.
“It was wonderful to spend an afternoon with my alma mater and to see such a large and enthusiastic audience of future environmental lawyers, policymakers, and citizens who care to make a difference,” said Graham, JD ‘09. “This panel was a great opportunity for students to see the multiple avenues one’s career in environmental law can take. If there is one piece of advice I have for students wanting to break into this field, it is be persistent in your search for new opportunities and be consistent and uncompromising in your beliefs.”
After working closely with Graham in planning the panel, outgoing ELS President Robert Bernstein landed an internship with Audubon of Florida during the Spring semester of his 3L year.
“The internship at Audubon Florida afforded me the opportunity to attend meetings about pressing environmental law issues and see first-hand how a variety of agencies approach the same policy issues from different angles,” said Bernstein.
A Florida native, Bernstein always knew he wanted to work with wildlife and study environmental law and policy. Bernstein double majored in Political Science and Ecosystem Science/ Policy at UM, and wrote his undergraduate thesis on the Everglades Forever Act of 1994. After taking the Bar this July, Bernstein hopes to practice civil environmental law, with a long-term goal of becoming a federal prosecutor in the Environmental Crimes unit of United States Attorney’s Office.
Given his ultimate career goal, Bernstein was particularly excited about the “Prosecuting Environmental Crimes” lecture featuring Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Thomas A. Watts-FitzGerald. While supervising the Environmental Crimes Unit, AUSA Watts-FitzGerald has prosecuted cases related to Everglades Restoration and wildlife protection, among others.
Watts-FitzGerald discussed wildlife smuggling, international environmental crimes, violations of the Endangered Species Act, and The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora during his lecture at Miami Law.
In honor of Earth Day 2014, ELS featured Environmental Law Society Faculty Advisor and Professor Felix Mormann during a lunchtime conversation on the history of Earth Day. Mormann discussed what current law students can do to increase awareness about environmental issues and improve for environmental conditions.
"The 45th anniversary of Earth Day reminds us that many environmental challenges are too complex to resolve overnight,” said Mormann. “ELS connects past, present, and future generations of Miami Law students to raise awareness and work collaboratively toward a cleaner, more sustainable environment in South Florida and beyond."
With a growing list of contacts and ideas, incoming ELS President Jonathan Korte looks forward to another exciting year for ELS. "The Environmental Law Society hopes to continue to serve as an opportunity for students to make professional connections inside the world of environmental law, while also seeking to play a more active role in the preservation of our resources through activism and volunteering."