Vanderbilt Law School offers an extensive curriculum and a wide range of extracurricular activities for students with an interest in energy, environmental and land use law. Environmental issues do not respect academic disciplinary boundaries, and Vanderbilt is a leader in developing interdisciplinary approaches to teaching, research and service in the areas of energy and land use regulation and environmental protection. Read the FAST FACTS.
Vanderbilt Law School provides financial support to students who work in the summer for non-profit organizations dedicated to land conservation, environmental regulation and other focus areas. In recent years, students have worked for organizations such as the federal Environmental Protection Agency in Dallas, Texas, and Washington, D.C.; Riverkeepers in Tarrytown, New York; the Land Trust for Tennessee, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Wildearth Guardians in Denver, Colorado.
Opportunities for students to serve as research assistants are available every year. In recent years, research assistants in environmental law have explored the role of law and social norms in shaping consumer behavior and the effects of legal sanctions on corporate environmental compliance.
The Climate Change Research Network at Vanderbilt, an initiative supported by Vanderbilt's Energy, Environment and Land Use Program, the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and the Environment and the Vanderbilt Center for Environmental Management Studies, includes teams of faculty, graduate, and professional students who are conducting theoretical and applied research on one of the most important and most widely overlooked sources of greenhouse gases: individual and household behavior.
Externships are available to law students who are interested in gaining experience-based instruction in professional skills and values. A variety of organizations provide externship opportunities, including environmental and other non-profit groups.
Environmental Law Institute Externship - An externship with the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) in Washington, D.C., is available to one Vanderbilt Law student per semester. This externship affords a remarkable opportunity to work on cutting-edge environmental law issues in Washington with ELI's talented, experienced group of environmental law and policy experts. ELI is an independent, non-partisan, environmental education and policy research center that has played a pivotal role in shaping the fields of environmental law, policy and management, both domestically and abroad, for the past 30 years.The extern shares time between ELI's Research/Policy and Publications divisions, working directly with staff attorneys on projects involving domestic and international environmental and natural resource protection law. The extern also works on an annual conference convened by Vanderbilt Law School and ELI that brings together academics, practitioners and policy-makers to explore the best environmental law and policy ideas from the academy and their potential application in the policy arena. In addition, the extern plays an important role in editing and producing Environmental Law Institute academic publications and has other opportunities to gain valuable practical experience.
The student Environmental Law Society organizes service projects and sponsors symposia on topics of importance to leaders in law, government, business and the academy.
Students edit and publish The Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review , a joint publication with the Environmental Law Institute that publishes scholarly articles presenting the best legal and policy solutions to pressing environmental problems. Working on the review affords students the opportunity to screen the environmental articles in law journals to identify the best ideas and to publish a one-issue student-edited volume each year, as well as to participate in an environmental law symposium in Washington, D.C.
Vanderbilt Law graduates serve in a wide range of environmental law and policy positions in private law firms, corporations, government agencies, public interest groups and other organizations. The Career Services Office provides special assistance to students interested in government and other public interest careers in environmental law in addition to coordinating on-campus interviews with hundreds of private employers.
Vanderbilt also offers a Loan Repayment Assistance Program to provide partial repayment of law school loans to students who work in public interest positions in a wide range of fields, including environmental law. Vanderbilt graduates have received LRAP assistance while working for government agencies, legal aid organizations and other non-profit organizations.
The question of responsibility for climate change lies at the heart of debate over actions to address it. This symposium, featured Professor Michael Vandenbergh, explored the conceptual territory of climate responsibility, and scientiﬁc, legal, ethical, and policy bases for assigning responsibility to countries and to other entities—from individuals to emitting industries to the fossil fuel companies at the base of the carbon supply chain whose responsibilities are now being actively debated in shareholder resolutions and calls for institutional divestment.
Other speakers included: Peter C. Frumhoff, Union of Concerned Scientists; Michael B. Gerrard, Columbia Law School; Karenna Gore, Union Theological Seminary; Sivan Kartha, Stockholm Environment Institute; and Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University.
The case, argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 14 (decided January 25, 2016), challenges a 2014 D.C. Court of Appeals decision which held that FERC lacked authority to regulate “demand response,” a form of energy efficiency through which large customers that buy wholesale electricity from power plants agree to reduce their energy consumption during periods when the electric grid experiences high demand. In the brief, which Professor Jim Rossi co-authored, the energy law scholars argue that the D.C. Circuit’s 2014 ruling in favor of the Electric Power Supply Association “was based on some fundamental misinterpretations of the Federal Power Act and applicable precedents” and should be overturned. Keep reading...
Benjamin Raker '17 has won both the Environmental Law Institute’s 2016–2017 Henry L. Diamond Constitutional Environmental Law Writing Competition and the Tennessee Bar Association’s Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award, sponsored by TBA's Environmental Law Section, which recognizes scholarship in environmental law by students of Tennessee law schools. Both awards include cash prizes. Read more...
Megan McLean '16 won the Environmental Law Institute’s 2015–2016 Beveridge & Diamond Constitutional Environmental Law Writing Competition. McLean’s winning entry, “Throwing Shade: The Case Against Judicial Interference With Solar Net Metering Policies,” argues that programs to encourage distributed electricity generation do not trigger the Takings Clause, which sometimes requires governments to pay compensation for their decisions.
Jake Byl JD/PhD '15 and Neil Issar JD ’16 win first prizes in ABA’s 2015 Energy Law and Endangered Species student writing competitions. Both won first place in student writing competitions sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER).
Kyle Robisch ’14 won a 2015 Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing for his Note, “Getting to the (Non)Point: Private Governance as a Solution to Nonpoint Source Pollution,” published in the Vanderbilt Law Review in 2014.
Marcy Nicks Moody '13 was one of 15 winners of the 2013 Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing for her 2012 Vanderbilt Law Review Note, “WARNING: MAY CAUSE WARMING Potential Trade Challenges to Private Environmental Labels.”
Will Airhart '12 wins TBA's Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award for writing on environmental law for his research paper “After AEP: The Climate Change Tort and the Social Cost of Carbon.”