August 22, 2023

NEDC Gives Students Environmental Advocacy Opportunities

NEDC has provided law students with environmental law experience, networking opportunities, and the feeling of community since 1969.

When Maggie Baker, a rising 2L, started school at Lewis & Clark Law School last year, she had no idea that the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) would become her gateway to finding community. Now, just a short year later, she’s working as their student law clerk and enjoying every moment of it.

“Serving as a law clerk for NEDC starting this summer has been one big growing moment for me,” said Baker about her experience with NEDC. “It’s been really exciting to get involved in research and commenting work without balancing school as well, and I’ve also learned a lot about time management and working from home. As I look forward to my 2L year, I am excited to have the opportunity to take more environmental law classes that apply to my NEDC work, and shift my responsibility more toward student organizing and planning on-campus activities.”

Created in 1969 by a group of alumni, professors, and law students on the Lewis & Clark campus, NEDC is a fully independent nonprofit organization with members working to protect the environment and natural resources all throughout the Pacific Northwest. Its L&C student chapter allows law students opportunities to work on ongoing watchdog-type projects from the very start of their law school career. For Baker, her early start with NEDC allowed her to apply her legal research and writing skills as early as her second week of law school. Writing a comment on a 1200-Z stormwater discharge permit with the clean water group “was a great experience to start getting me energized,” said Baker.

NEDC provides students with opportunities to get involved in leadership and legal advocacy as a student volunteer, project coordinator, or law clerk. Typically, NEDC offers students the choice between a variety of projects in the fields of public lands and wildlife, water, food and agriculture, air and climate, and environmental justice. These projects vary from SOPA monitoring for Oregon national forests to researching and commenting on stormwater discharge permits and dredge and fill actions to commenting on the safety and discontinuation of inert PFAS chemicals in agricultural pesticides.

NEDC also provides students opportunities to connect with peers and network with professionals in the environmental law field through their EnvironMentor program and Westwind Retreat. EnvironMentor pairs first-year law students with upper division students pursuing similar areas of practice to help them find community and connection during their first year. Westwind is an annual board retreat on the Oregon Coast where students and alumni camp or stay in cabins, network, and connect together. Westwind “was a breath of fresh air for me as I was starting to feel like law school was overwhelming,” said Baker, citing the unique opportunity the Westwind retreat provides to connect students and attorneys in a more casual setting. “I definitely had a couple of aha moments of like okay, maybe I belong with these people. Maybe I can do this.”

For first year law students, NEDC provides instant community and opportunities to collaborate. Although 1L can be a difficult transition for some, NEDC allows students to work on real world problems that ignite their passions and to find some of their closest friends while doing it, too. “My mentor has become one of my good friends,” said Baker. “I think NEDC can really give first year students a nice connection within an older student who has been through what you’re going through as a 1L and help you find community in law school.”

To learn more about NEDC and how to get involved, please visit their website here.