May 1, 2020
In this Summer Student Retrospective series, four law students who worked with us last summer reflect on their experiences.
It has been my goal in entering law school to find meaningful work that will benefit the community. To me, it is environmental and climate change concerns are the most pressing problems that we face in this century. As resource depletion continues, the social issues we face are only going to increase due to the climate change crisis. Thus, going into law school I was hoping that I could contribute some work that would be part of the global effort in mitigating climate change. Thankfully, Dalhousie Law School offers opportunities to volunteer pro bono time and work alongside incredible organizations who are helping to address a multitude of social issues. I was able to join East Coast Environmental Law as a Pro Bono student during my first year at law school and then secured funding and was accepted by the organization to intern with them last summer.
The main project that I worked on was a public information document reviewing how environmental assessments can be utilized to mitigate projects’ climate change impacts. Specifically, this meant researching and consolidating the information being put forward by jurisdictions, academia, and non-governmental organizations on the best practices for assessing a project’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Some of the key best practices that I identified include ensuring that all emissions are included in the assessment (both direct and indirect), putting sustainability as a clear objective in the legislation or policy, and utilizing climate change goals or GHG emission targets as a measurement for the GHG emissions produced. The document I prepared will hopefully add to East Coast Environmental Law’s law reform work in addressing climate change and environmental assessments.
I also helped to organize two environmental assessment (EA) workshops that were held in autumn 2019. One took place in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in early October and the other took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia in early November. These workshops reviewed the EA processes that apply to each province and were meant to inform attendees about the process and the importance of engaging and commenting on proposed projects. Often, if a new development is occurring and an individual or organization has concerns, they may not know how to begin to engage and express these concerns. I felt privileged to help support communities, organizations, and individuals access this important legal information.
In addition to helping with some other administrative work, I also helped to facilitate a youth education project on environmental law and species at risk that East Coast Environmental Law delivered to local high school students in the early summer. Overall, it was amazing to be on the inside of an organization like this, on the front lines attending meetings and being a part of the great work that they do.
Some of the primary learning opportunities during my time at East Coast Environmental law saw me improving my legal research skills, client relationship management skills, and communication skills. Often, I was engaged with individuals seeking assistance, and I am glad that I was able to learn effective strategies and skills for communicating as a legal professional. Staff were able to provide me with regular and effective feedback, and I am much more confident now going forward in my legal career.
It was a great privilege to be able to work for East Coast Environmental Law last summer. The amount of energy and passion that the organization has and the amount of work its staff do are staggering. If a law student is interested in environmental law or learning more of how an environmental law charity functions, then working with East Coast Environmental Law is a great opportunity. In addressing overwhelming issues like climate change, it is the accumulative work from organizations all over the world that is needed to make a difference. I am happy that, already in my legal career, I can say I have added some small part to that work.
Michael's work with us was funded by the Schulich Academic Excellence Fund for Internships: a summer internship program administered by the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.