Environmental Law Clinic

The Environmental Law Clinic provides students with the opportunity to work on important and challenging matters involving the protection and enhancement of the environment and human health. 

Clinic students
ELC Students hosted a thrift swap clothing drive on campus as part of UCI Sustainability Resource Center's  Sustainival, an annual fair that celebrates UCI’s campus culture of sustainability. Read >

Clinic students take an early and active role representing clients in litigation and policy matters. Students advocate on behalf of clients in courts and before administrative tribunals, while also providing advice and counsel to clients regarding legislative, policy, and strategic matters.

The Clinic’s docket is diverse, spanning a wide range of environmental and natural resources law, covering local, regional and national issues. As a result, the Clinic provides a rigorous and intellectually challenging educational experience with broad application for students beyond environmental law.

Students develop their problem-solving and advocacy skills and may screen new matters; meet with and interview clients, community leaders, witnesses and agency personnel; investigate and develop facts; hone writing and oral advocacy skills; advise and counsel clients; negotiate, mediate or litigate matters; and collaborate with lawyers, policymakers and others. The Clinic also strives to empower its clients and inform the larger community about environmental issues and strategies.

In addition, the Clinic works closely with UCI Law’s Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources (CLEANR), the UCI School of Social Ecology and the UCI Program in Public Health.

In its first six years, clinic students have worked on a diverse range of matters, including:

  • Initiating actions to protect water quality and enforce the Clean Water Act
  • Assisting coastal communities to plan for climate change adaptation
  • Advising a coastal community in its fight against on-shore oil drilling
  • Protecting important desert lands against development and exploitation
  • Encouraging and requiring compliance with the California Environmental Policy Act and the National Environmental Policy Act

The Environmental Law Clinic was fantastic. I got to write a reply brief and then argue a motion for a writ of mandate in court, so I was in court for several weeks in a row watching this bench trial happen, and then I got to argue in court. It was the first time that I got to be a real lawyer—not for moot court, not for class, but for real—and I felt 100% prepared to do it, which was a really awesome feeling.
AK Bennett ’14, Associate, Norton Rose Fulbright, Los Angeles

Recent Work

As of fall 2022, the ELC has worked on a broad range of matters and continues to deepen its commitment to centering environmental justice. Our 2021-22 Mysun Clinical Fellows, Jabari Brown and Scott Badenoch, worked alongside clients and allies to achieve significant victories for EJ communities in both Santa Ana and Orange County. The year also saw the ELC’s students helping clients to prevail in defense of California’s first-of-their-kind connectivity and wildlife corridor ordinances in Ventura County, and the protection of sacred sites and national park resources in the Mojave Desert. Similar work continues on behalf of clients fighting to protect their interests in places ranging from Oceano Dunes on California’s central coast to the Apalachicola River and Bay ecosystem in Florida. 

In 2021, the ELC saw the departure of staff attorney and fellow Brett Korte, who joined Clean Wisconsin, followed in early 2022 by the addition of Daniel Jacobs as staff Senior Counsel. The ELC continues to have a close collaborative relationship with UCI’s Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources (CLEANR), including with its staff directors Melissa Kelly ’14 and Gregg Macey.

In the News