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Activities and Initiatives

land and environmental law program

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The Land & Environment Program Kickoff Orientation Reception: At the start of classes each Fall, the Land & Environment Program holds a mass meeting Barbecue at a faculty member’s home, where newly arrived first-year students gather with second- and third-year students, along with most of the land & environmental law faculty members, so all can meet one another, talk about the program’s many elements and prospects for the coming year, play a lawn game or two, and eat and drink late-summer fare including a secret sangria, BBQ, and vege-burgers for the non-carnivores in the group.  Program alumni often attend the kickoff Barbecue, and mentoring relationships have a chance to form at this early stage of students’ careers.

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The Environmental Law Society:The ELS is the umbrella organization for most of the land and environmental law program activities at BC Law School, including public service projects, professional training, and collegial group activities. Most of the elements of the programs noted on this website were developed and are supported by past and present efforts of the many active students in each class who make the ELS a standout among law school associations.

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The Environmental Law Society:
The ELS is never a highly-structured organization. Its constitution and bylaws probably exist somewhere in the office files. But “an environmental law society IS what it DOES.” Through collegial cooperation, inspiration, and sweat, the ELS group over the years has compiled a remarkable track record, attested by an array of projects and programs, and a large cohort of its alums who have made successful careers in the field, and significant contributions to society.

ELS website

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This map and the accompanying analysis prepared by the Boston College Law School’s Environmental Law Society for the State of Alaska Oil Spill Commission after the wreck of the MV Exxon-Valdez actually served to expand the Commission’s official scope of investigation and its Final Report, so as  to include problems not only with ocean tanker transport, but also with North Slope drilling and pumping operations, pipeline maintenance and safety, storage facility vulnerability, and offshore operations. ELS received special commendation from the Chairman of the Commission for its contributions to the Commission’s work.

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The Environmental Law-Teaching Program:
In BCLS’S unique law-teaching seminar program carefully-selected law students teach their own courses in environmental law to university undergraduates, as lecturers in law in the Boston College Political Science Department. Two-person teams of law students teach four sections, with each team’s class enrollment comprising ten to thirty-five undergraduate students from different departments.

Not Your Ordinary Law Class (Article)

The Environmental Affairs Law Review

Land & Environment Symposia

Public Policy Testimony Project:
The ELS Testimony Project is a unique opportunity to help draft legal memoranda and testify in favor of legislation considered by the state legislature and the state and federal agencies. In an effort to acquaint law students with the process of legislative and regulatory advocacy in the environmental context the ELS Testimony Project was launched in the spring of 2003 under the guidance of Adjunct Professor Anne Kelly.

The Project is designed to encourage law students to examine and research legal issues which are likely to be the subject of debate in a given bill or proposed set of regulations.   Students are expected to draft testimony defending a particular position—which thus far has been a position in support of proposed legislation, though it is anticipated that students will have the opportunity to become advocates in opposition to regressive of legislation as well.    Having submitted their testimony for advice from the ELS Board, with assistance from professors, students prepare supporting documents and a briefing memo as foundation for a presentation of oral testimony to legislative committees or administrative agency rulemaking hearings.  

At least one rehearsal is conducted prior to the live hearing to allow students to practice before their professor(s) and their peers.

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The National Administrative-Environmental Law Moot Court competition team:
Over the past 20 years, Boston College Law School’s National Administrative-Environmental Law Moot Court Team has participated in either the National Administrative Law Moot Court Competition in Ohio or the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition in New York. The team focuses on environmental law, administrative law and constitutional issues, and in recent years has concentrated on the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition sponsored by Pace University Law School, contesting cases arising in the land use and environment setting.

The Competition Problem arrives in October, with all teams’ briefs due on-line in early December, and oral arguments in New York in mid-February. The Pace program offers high level competition with between 70 and 80 teams from around the U.S. and Canada, and employs a particularly challenging format. The role-rotating rounds over a two-day sequence of oral arguments are each contested by three teams, not two — typically between a state or local government or agency versus a corporation or a citizens organization, with a further appearance and argument by an alternative government agency, corporation, or citizens group as intervenors or cross-appellants or -appellees.

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The result is a situation of logical, tactical, and doctrinal complexity for all three sides. The level of oral advocacy and judging in the competition has traditionally been high.

Boston College teams won the National Championship twice in the National Administrative Law competition and were Finalists in the National Environmental Law Competition while winning Top Oralist honors.

The Community Enterprise Clinic:The Community Enterprise Clinic is a new student-generated public interest venture, researching and counseling low-income neighborhood economic development initiatives — taught by Professor Paul Tremblay, a faculty member with extensive experience in clinical teaching and service to low-income communities.  This Clinic derives from the concerted efforts of Boston College law students interested in service to low-income communities and in learning transactional skills while assisting entrepreneurs to create employment and economic vitality in distressed neighborhoods.  The scope of the new clinic is flexible and expansive, potentially including small business development (both for profit and not for profit), affordable housing issues, regulatory practice, health and safety issues, microlending, civic land use planning and rehabilitation, and transportation and traffic concerns.

Land & Environment Jobs Panel:At least once a year, and often more, the ELS sponsors a specialized Jobs Panel discussion. Alumni and other practitioners who have made satisfying careers in the field of land and environmental law describe the broad and increasing variety of jobs available to graduates with concentrated interests and study in these fields. Career paths include work as corporate counsel in companies large and small, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, legislative committees and commissions, local government, and individualized practice, as well as in law firm land and environmental practice. The Career Services office also keeps track of job opportunities for summer and career placements in these specialized areas.

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Outdoor Activities Program:
As with most law students, Environmental Law Society members combine their long hours in research and class preparations in the Law Library with occasional bouts of eagerness to run away from law studies. The ELS provides many opportunities for such delinquencies, in all seasons, in groups large and small. Hikes, fishing, skiing, biking, windsurfing, and road trips are regularly potential parts of the menu. The ELS armada includes access to faculty canoes, kayaks, and a windsurfer. Weekends in New England are often too nice to spend indoors.

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Annual Winter Weekend Seminar in the New Hampshire woods:

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The Regulatory Skills, Land Use & Environmental Administrative Practice Workshop Series:One of the most striking failures of most law schools’ curriculum design is the failure to teach the art of hands-on regulatory practice —  researching, interpreting, and applying administrative rules and guidelines — which according to some professional observers affects 90% or more of all modern legal practice. This deficit is especially problematic if students wish to practice in the land and environmental law field.

The Regulatory Skills, Land Use & Environmental Administrative Practice Workshop Series course is sponsored by BC ELS and a local law firm through a BC Law grad, Robert Brennan, who first learned his teaching skills in the law school's Environmental Law-Teaching program.

Many first-year students take the course to help sell themselves to summer employers, and they often report back that the training was invaluable to them in their first professional work as interns. It’s amazing how much public administrative law and process there is to learn, and participating in this course gives students a jump on other one-L’s who have only dealt with case law.
This workshop series is a not-for-credit “course” (consisting of 7 weekly 1 ½  hour sessions in March & April) that focuses on the regulatory skills involved in the practice of environmental and land use law. The point of the course is to provide basic research skills for and an introduction to land and environment regulatory law so that students can hit the ground running during the first summer break. It examines how to conduct statutory and regulatory research by teaching how to use the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and state regulations which are largely overlooked in the first-year curriculum but are essential to modern law practice. Beyond research skills and the general principles of administrative law and local government law, it also examines the major federal and state environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air and Water Acts, Superfund/CERCLA/21E, and basic zoning laws.

Each topic is presented by a team of two attorneys from a variety of  sectors of practice (large & small firms, NGOs, and government) on a different aspect of regulatory practice in the area of land use and environmental law. This not only provides a unique perspective and a better idea of what environmental/land use attorneys do, but also provides a great opportunity to do serious networking. No outside homework or reading are required. It is a great chance to get an early exposure to regulatory practice in the environmental & land law area, and has enabled many one-Ls to secure summer jobs in environmental law. Each of the 40-80 students completing the training gets a certificate attesting to that fact.

The Environment & Land Use Law Certificate Program: