Summer Student Series 2020: Nicole Tomasic

September 11, 2020

As a soon-to-be second-year student at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law, I had the opportunity to work with East Coast Environmental Law as a Legal Researcher this summer. It was a heartening surprise to work with an organization that specializes in Environmental Law, which I will soon be studying. I am truly grateful to have gained experience, knowledge, and connections to anchor my burgeoning path in Environmental Law, a path I did not expect to step on to so soon after my first year of legal studies.

I am excited to begin coursework in both Marine and Environmental Law, in which I intend to specialize. Although first year legal studies are certainly foundational, I have been awaiting learning more about the domestic and international legal framework, challenges, and opportunities surrounding the natural environment. With this knowledge, I hope to contribute toward protecting the wild places I love and combatting the power dynamics that compromise them. It was particularly exciting to work with East Coast Environmental Law ahead of diving into coursework in the organization’s areas of expertise, to gain a sense of the types of meaningful involvements that can arise in an Environmental Law career.

In my time at East Coast Environmental Law, I had the pleasure of working closely with staff lawyer Tina Northrup on a project that aims at creating public legal education materials that address some legal implications of protests and other direct actions, key tools in the arsenals of Indigenous and environmental activists, among others. My work on the project provided the opportunity to research several different areas of law, peruse federal and provincial statutes as well as municipal governance regimes, investigate the Parliamentary discussion and debate that underlies statutes, and deep dive into a wealth of case law. My work provided further opportunity to polish my legal writing skills while drafting materials for different purposes and audiences, from public legal education materials to formal research memoranda. My role allowed me to learn from Tina along with the wider East Coast Environmental Law team, and our weekly remote meetings provided a forum for discussion and questions about ongoing work in a supportive, collaborative and inquisitive environment. The team’s passion and dedication were impactful.

Broadly, I have gained a sense of the grey areas that distinguish lawful protests from civil disobedience, as well as the legal frameworks that both uphold and restrict democratic freedoms. The law can both support and hinder activism, and I am keen to continue exploring the nuances of law as it relates to pursuing worthy causes.

My time as a Legal Researcher with East Coast Environmental Law has been a lovely experience that has allowed me to harness and strengthen my legal research and writing skills and develop new capabilities. Most importantly, the work I was able to contribute to this summer has left me more intrigued than ever about the vast potential of a legal career, and very excited to see how my path will unfold from here as I progress through my studies. I would love to engage with East Coast Environmental Law in future and am looking forward to seeing how the project I immersed in will unfold. I have no doubt I will hear more about the organization’s inspiring work during my time at Schulich and beyond.


Nicole Tomasic

Nicole Tomasic

Nicole's work with us was funded by the Canada Summer Jobs program.