THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON ALUMNI MAGAZINE
Environmental Law Gets Stronger Through New Clinic
The natural habitats of the Pacific Northwest will receive more vigorous protection with the establishment of a new clinic in the UW School of Law. The Kathy and Steve Berman Environmental Law Clinic will open in the fall, bringing a renewed focus to the school's environmental law track.
The clinic, to be housed in the Clinical Program Wing of the new William H. Gates Hall, is made possible by a generous private gift from Kathy Weisfield, '87, and Steve Berman, a University of Michigan alumnus and managing partner of the local law firm Hagens-Berman. Berman cites a fondness for the Pacific Northwest and an interest in protecting its land, air and water as the motivation for the couple's generosity. "I have been living here for over 20 years, and was attracted to the Northwest largely because of the diverse and wonderful environment we have, from our forests, to the sea, to the desert," he says. "Having come here, I want to help protect it and the UW, with its resources and standing in the Northwest, seems like a terrific partner."
Law faculty and staff say the program will educate many of the next generation of environmental law practitioners. "This gift continues our forward momentum among elite law schools known for environmental advocacy," says Dexter Bailey, assistant dean for development and external affairs.
Participating students will conduct investigations and interviews, consult with scientific experts, file petitions, and develop and initiate cases. In addition to supervision from a clinician and other experienced practitioners, an advisory board comprising UW scientists, attorneys and other experts will provide oversight, a program component Steve Berman finds particularly appealing. "I believe the UW has an excellent field of experts in various areas that impact the environment," he says. "I see an advisory board from all of these areas helping to identify the region's main environmental issues and then working with students on selected missions to reach out and solve or help to solve the problem."
This interdisciplinary approach will be a hallmark of the new program, with the clinic drawing upon faculty from across campus to bring multiple perspectives to its classroom and practice experiences. It will expose students to the science, public policy, medical, public health, engineering and technical issues involved in solving environmental problems.
Besides paying for a director and staff, the gift will support members of the independent student environmental advocacy organization GreenLaw and provide funding for student and faculty scholarship and honoraria, moot court competitions, and community outreach. Planning for the clinic is ongoing, and a clinician may be hired this summer.
Born out of the unique environmental concerns of the Pacific Northwest, the Kathy and Steve Berman Environmental Law Clinic will bring to the UW a vital dimension in legal education. By adding a field component to students' textbook learning and giving them practical experience in litigation, this new program will give UW students many tangible opportunities to make their world a better place.