HOPE Fellow Finds Home in the World of Environmental Justice


Before she started law school, you could probably find the HOPE Fellow alumna Natalie Cavellier in the water. A former college swimmer at UC Santa Cruz (where she wrote a thesis on Marine Protected Areas), one of the first things she did when she moved to Miami to begin her graduate degree in coastal zone management at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences was to join a swim team. When she wasn’t in the pool or Biscayne Bay, you could find Cavellier working as a legal assistant for a local immigration law firm. Though she wasn’t sure whether law would be the right fit for her, she discovered that she enjoyed reading and writing briefs, so she decided to apply to several environmental law programs.

When she was accepted into Miami Law, it seemed like a natural transition – Cavellier wanted to remain a part of the Miami community, which she had grown to love. Staying in Miami also allowed her to gain an opportunity to further explore coastal law issues in Florida. Her instinct was to just keep swimming, and she began at Miami Law shortly after graduating from RSMAS.

As a second-year law student, Cavellier was a member of Miami Law’s Environmental Justice Clinic, where she worked on toxic tort litigation and focused on land-use policy issues. She further explored public service as a HOPE Fellow during the summer of 2020, serving as a law clerk for the Natural Resources Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, based in Washington, DC. Her experiences in the public interest community have confirmed that she is on the right path.

“The Environmental Justice Clinic made me realize how much I like litigation, which I was able to continue last summer while I interned for the DOJ,” says Cavellier. “Most importantly, the EJC helped me learn that as a lawyer you can be a part of the community. I was able to see how important that relationship is firsthand.”

As fate would have it, Cavellier spoke about her role in the Environmental Justice Clinic at the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25, which took place in Madrid, Spain in December 2019.

“Attending COP25 was by far the most memorable experience I’ve had in law school,” she says. “Being there made me see the different places a law degree can take you, especially in international law. I saw how diverse the field is, and how even someone who is practicing basic land use or Constitutional law in the U.S. can make a decent amount of difference at the international level.”

Cavellier, who received her J.D./LL.M. in Real Property Development in 2021 joined the firm of Braun & Gresham in Austin, Texas after graduation. The firm provides expert legal counsel and practical advice for owners of rural properties nationwide and uses traditional resources in innovative ways to help clients protect and create new value in their land. 

If she could give her 1L self any piece of advice, it would be to be a good person. “It’s important to remember that law school isn’t everything. Life is happening outside of law school! Stay involved in your community, and be good to yourself and to others.”

Read more about the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center
More on Environmental Law at Miami Law 
Read more the HOPE Fellows Program