Experiences with the Coastal Policy Clinic

forrestby Jeremy Forrest, Class of 2015

Jeremy is is third-year student from Newport News, VA. He is a 2008 graduate of Hampden-Sydney College.

I knew as a 1L that I wanted to be a part of the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic after reading about the clinic’s mission and talking to 2Ls and 3Ls about their work with the Clinic. Growing up along Virginia’s coast, I experienced firsthand the exact issues the Clinic addresses. I look forward to the opportunity to investigate difficult problems that have no easy solution.

The Clinic Director, Roy Hoagland, brought a wealth of knowledge to the clinic. Almost every week the clinic hosted a guest speaker who was part of the frontlines of creating and enforcing environmental policy in Virginia’s Chesapeake region. These speakers included state government officials, an EPA scientist, private attorneys, grantmakers, and a former legislator who championed much of Virginia’s environmental legislation over the past 30 years.

The past semester’s work was highlighted by the Clinic’s involvement with the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change. In September, the members of the Clinic attended the first meeting of the Commission at the Capitol in Richmond. Afterwards, we were able to attend a reception and meet with both Governor McAulliffe and the Secretary of Natural Resources (and W&M Law Alum) Molly Ward.

coastal policy

In early December, the Clinic hosted the second meeting of the Commission in Williamsburg. The Clinic organized a series of speakers including the head of the Norfolk Division of the Army Corps of Engineers, VIMS scientists, and Senator Kaine.

In addition to the Clinic’s work with the Commission, each member of the Clinic worked on projects individually. The focus of each of our projects was on exploring a discrete scientific issue and addressing how the issue could impact public policy. Some examples include the potential for governmental liability for failing to address the impacts of sea level rise; the effect of sea level rise on the efforts to measure Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts; and providing assistance to an effort to coordinate the region’s sea level rise adaptation efforts.

The Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic provides students with an experience of the kind of work environmental lawyers do on a daily basis. While most people think that the law is about going to court or drafting contracts, the Clinic shows the value of lawyering in the context of guiding public policy .

This blog post is part of a series featuring student experiences in William & Mary Law School’s nine clinics. To view more clinic posts, click here.