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Sarah Herbert (Class of 2011)

Day Division
When I enrolled in law school I knew I would work in the field of environmental law. I wanted to help improve the environment around us to benefit future generations. But, like every other law student, I had to survive first year and learn the building blocks of a legal education. This meant dedicating my weeks to civil procedure, contracts, torts, criminal law, and property. During my first year it was hard to picture a time where I would be able to use my J.D. as a tool to help others. I knew that there was hope, hearing about 2L’s and 3L’s experiences in clinics and internships, and I couldn’t wait until I had the same opportunity.

After surviving first year I clerked for a year and a half at a small, private law firm focused on environmental law. Even though I was with a private firm I learned that lawyers needed to be responsible for the fact that they had acquired a special skill to help others. The firm provided discounted services and pro bono work to those who could not afford it otherwise. They worked on cases concerning the expansion of dumps, threatened wetland development, and power plants in environmental justice communities. Seeing the willingness of the attorneys to lend their skills to others who truly needed assistance inspired me to pursue the Environmental Law Clinic option at New England Law during my third year.

I was lucky enough to have my clinic at Clean Air Task Force (CATF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to influencing federal policy and legislation to improve air quality. Working on issues ranging from climate change, renewable fuels, biomass, and carbon sequestration, CATF attorneys and staff dedicate their time to improving the environment for the benefit of all. It was here that I found my passion. I was able to use my legal education to pursue change that benefits the environment. It’s an amazing feeling to know that your legal work furthers a goal about which you are passionate. It also made clear to me that I was doing the right thing for my future. It erased any self-doubt due to the fact that every time I walked into the CATF office, I was excited for the work I was about to do and knew I was part of an organization trying to make a positive change.

The clinical experience inspired me so much that I stayed on at CATF after my clinic was over to continue on with this work. I not only found my volunteer work at CATF after my clinic ended to be rewarding personally and professionally, but, as a result of that work, I earned the school’s “Public Service Honor Roll” notation on my transcript.

The best part is that at New England public service work is encouraged, and rightly so. Other students that I talk to about their work in the public interest field are truly satisfied with what they are doing. It goes beyond writing legal briefs, submitting public comments, or drafting policy. It includes making a difference in an area you care about, whether it be the environment, family law, or disability law. As future attorneys we are learning a skill that benefits the public and there is no better field to do this than in public interest.

(May 2011)