Environmental Law Joint Degree in Hand, Alumna Protects Waterways and Marine Life


Environmental preservation has always been important to Miami Law alumna Kelly Cox, who received a joint degree in Law and Marine Ecosystems and Society in 2016. Cox, a Staff Attorney and Program Director at Miami Waterkeeper, and current Interim Executive Director, now spends her days zealously advocating for the waterways and aquatic species in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

Kelly Cox, J.D.'16

Keeping Local Water Clean

Miami Waterkeeper’s mission is to protect South Florida’s watershed through citizen engagement and community action, ensuring swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for all. In early August, Miami Waterkeeper was featured in the Miami Herald for effectively persuading Miami-Dade County to plug a break in a massive ocean sewer pipe that had been leaking into the Atlantic Ocean near Key Biscayne and Fisher Island over the course of a year. Miami Waterkeeper had sent the County a Notice of Intent to sue for Clean Water Act violations associated with the spill -- amounting to approximately 10 million gallons of partially treated sewage.

Why She Chose Miami Law

Cox chose to attend Miami Law because she knew her acceptance in to the Miami Scholars Program would allow her to expand on her undergraduate experience as a Park Scholar at North Carolina State University by granting her the freedom to choose her own summer fellowship at a non-profit or governmental agency, and to connect her with the appropriate contacts to pursue her passions effectively.

“If it weren’t for Dean Marni Lennon [in the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center], who knows where I would have ended up,” said Cox.

How Law School Supported Pursuit of Environmental Advocacy

Originally from South Florida, Cox found the community at Miami Law, and in the Greater Miami Area, open to her engagement. She cites specific on-campus experiences including serving as a Research Assistant for Professor Anthony Alfieri, taking a Non-Profit Law class with Professor Frances Hill, whom Cox credits as someone who “fueled the fire,” and serving as President of the Environmental Law Society, as being of vital importance in positioning her for success after graduation.

“That sort of community infrastructure on campus is so important,” said Cox.

Impact of UM’s Rosensteil School

Adding to her resume, this fall Cox will be teaching Environmental Law to graduate students at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Miami Law offers programs with RSMAS, one of the leading academic oceanographic and atmospheric research institutions in the world, including the joint degree Cox pursued in Marine Ecosystems and also one in Maritime Law.

Advice to Law Students

While at Miami Law, Cox began connecting with organizations that were relevant to her research and was determined to transform her class assignments into something more. “As a law student, you will be doing research anyway, so you might as well meet someone who might need it. Just emailing with an attorney in the community can lead to getting facetime or coffee with them, which can be very important.”

“My HOPE Fellowship [with the City of Miami] introduced me to my job at Miami Waterkeeper,” said Cox.  “My advice to current students is to get out of the library, get involved, attend volunteer events, and meet people who are change makers in your community. At your internship opportunities, do your best work, and connect with relevant organizations. People will notice.”