The Environmental Law Clinic provides an opportunity each quarter for students to represent national, regional, and grassroots non-profit organizations on a variety of environmental issues. The clinic’s primary goal is to help students develop essential lawyering skills through hands-on experience in real cases.
Under the supervision of clinic director Deborah Sivas, JD ’87, and clinical attorneys Alicia Thesing, JD ’00, Isaac Cheng, and Molly Loughney Melius, JD ‘10, clinic students work on a mix of litigation and policy matters at the interface of law, science, and policy. The clinic’s clients range from national groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Ocean Conservancy to regional and local groups like Center for Biological Diversity, Monterey Coastkeeper, the Grand Canyon Trust and the Pit River Tribe. The clinic’s work tends to be based in California, but often concerns issues in other regions or across the nation. Our cases take our students before administrative agencies and to all levels of state and federal court, with frequent practice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.
As part of their casework in the clinic, students help screen new matters and potential clients; formulate strategies; research and develop factual and legal issues; and prosecute administrative and litigation proceedings. Students may meet with clients, opposing counsel or agency officials; review administrative records and develop expert testimony; draft comment letters, petitions, pleadings and briefs; and present argument at administrative and judicial hearings. In regular one-on-one meetings with supervising faculty, there is a heavy emphasis on learning how to write persuasively, present oral arguments, and exercise professional judgment.
In the past year, clinic students have successfully litigated cases to protect sacred tribal lands from geothermal development, address agricultural pollution from runoff in the Salinas Valley, and defend local laws aimed at avoiding harmful coastal development. You can read more about our cases or see some of our students’ recent work.
The clinic runs year-round, with full-time students in the fall and winter quarters; advanced students in the fall, winter, and spring quarters; and one or two full-time students over the summer. Only Stanford Law School students may take the clinic during the academic year, but we encourage students at other law schools to apply for summer positions.
Check out the Clinic’s big victories and read more about our Environmental Program in our most recent newsletters.
Students' Work and Cases
The clinic is currently handling about 20 litigation and policy matters involving from marine and coastal resource protection, public land management, water quality, and threatened or endangered species.
Students in the Environmental Law Clinic have the opportunity to work on these cases. They have recently authored or co-authored briefs, letters, and other documents in cases aimed at:
- Saving the Medicine Lake Highlands
- Cleaning up agricultural runoff in central California
- Protecting California counties from fracking and new oil and gas development
- Challenging environmentally harmful desalination projects
- Encouraging responsible renewable energy development on public lands
- Enforcing California’s Environmental Quality Act
- Protecting the sage grouse and other endangered species
- Protecting salmon habitat in Marin County, California
- Defending local protections against unsustainable coastal development
- Defeating a huge landfill on the flanks of Joshua Tree National Park
- Shepherding coastal wetlands into state conservation from private ownership
- Preserving the historic Presidio in San Francisco