About the Environmental Law and Policy Program
The program draws on the Law School's rich tradition in environmental and natural resources law, which dates to the early years of the environmental movement in the United States, and features leading experts on environmental crime, administrative law, international environmental law, natural resources law, and climate change.
We also build on the University of Michigan's outstanding interdisciplinary and dual degree programs—unmatched by any other law school—with the School for Environment and Sustainability, the Ford School of Public Policy, the Ross School of Business, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and the School of Public Health.
The program offers one of the most extensive environmental, natural resources, and energy law curriculums among top law schools in the United States, as well as a superb environment and sustainability clinic in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation.
We sponsor an acclaimed lecture series on environmental issues, which features leading voices from academia, government, environmental groups, and industry, as well as a speaker series focused on careers in environmental law.
The program plans conferences and symposiums every 18 months with our student Environmental Law Society, provides pro bono programs—including the Environmental Crimes Project, the most comprehensive database of pollution prosecutions in the United States, and the Green Gavels Project, the only judicial scorecard for environmental decisions—and includes the Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law.
With its superb faculty, rigorous academic program, and unrivaled practical experiences for students, the Environmental Law and Policy Program has established Michigan Law as one of the top environmental law programs in the United States.
Dual Degrees and Interdisciplinary Opportunities
Environmental law brings together multiple disciplines in ways that exceed most other curricular and practice areas.
Environmental attorneys are litigators, regulators, compliance officers, and policy-makers; their work depends upon expertise in ecology, biology, chemistry, engineering, risk science, toxicology, public health, and resource management.
To be successful, environmental attorneys must have the ability to work with people across disciplines and to translate complex scientific concepts into accessible language. At Michigan, that process starts with an interdisciplinary emphasis along with joint degree programs that no other top law school can match.
Michigan Law offers a range of outstanding dual degree programs, including one of the only Law and Natural Resources (JD/MS) programs in the country. Michigan also offers superb Law and Public Policy (JD/MPP), Law and Business Administration (JD/MBA), and Law and Public Health (JD/MHSA or MPH) programs.
Students seeking dual degrees may apply to the programs that interest them during their first or second year of law studies. Ad hoc dual degree programs can also be designed to fit the more narrowly tailored needs of individual students who wish to pursue careers in environmental and natural resources law.
In addition to dual degrees, Michigan Law offers a wide range of interdisciplinary opportunities for students interested in environmental law. Students can take environmental courses at other schools on campus, including the School for the Environment and Sustainability, the Ford School of Public Policy, the Ross School of Business, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and the School of Public Health.
Each year, Michigan Law students are eligible to apply for the Dow Fellowship Program, which awards $20,000 grants to students to work on interdisciplinary projects with students from other graduate and professional schools on campus, a program no other law school offers.
Students also have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of interdisciplinary programs sponsored by the Graham Sustainability Institute, the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, the Center for Sustainable Systems, and the Michigan Energy Institute. Few universities can offer its students more opportunities to explore different aspects of environmental issues than the University of Michigan.
Lectures and Events
ELPP Lecture Series
The Environmental Law and Policy Program Lecture Series features speakers from a wide range of backgrounds in government, academia, public interest groups, and private practice.
The lecture series provides Michigan Law students the opportunity to learn from leaders of the environmental movement in the United States, builds relationships between the Law School and the environmental community, and contributes to debate about the environmental challenges facing our nation and the world. Students often meet privately with speakers during their visits to Michigan Law.
Some lecturers are co-sponsored by other schools and programs at the University of Michigan.
All lectures are open to the public. Admission is free.
Careers in Environmental Law Speaker Series
The Environmental Law and Policy Program offers a speaker series focusing on careers in environmental law. This speaker series brings environmental practitioners from a wide range of backgrounds to Michigan Law for lunchtime presentations that explore the myriad ways that environmental lawyers contribute to environmental protection, natural resource conservation, and clean energy efforts.
The speaker series includes public service and public interest attorneys, as well as attorneys in private practice and within corporations. The practice areas encompass new areas of environmental law, such as renewable energy and sustainability programs, as well as more traditional compliance counseling and enforcement practices.
Panel Discussions and Special Events
The Environmental Law and Policy Program sponsors panel discussions and special events throughout the year on current issues in environmental law with a particular emphasis on issues affecting the Great Lakes, which are the world's largest freshwater system.
The panel discussions are moderated by members of Michigan's distinguished environmental law faculty and include presentations by academics, practitioners, and policy makers. Many of the events and panels are presented in conjunction with classroom discussions as part of our extensive environmental law curriculum.
Pro Bono Projects
In addition to its extensive course offerings, clinical work, and lectures and conferences, the Environmental Law and Policy Program offers students the opportunity to gain practical experience working on pro bono projects that are part of the Law School's pro bono pledge. These opportunities, which are available to first-year students as well as 2Ls and 3Ls, allow students to work closely with faculty and other students on cutting-edge issues that promote environmental protection and sustainability efforts.
The Environmental Crimes Project
Nearly 400 Michigan Law students have collaborated since fall 2010 on the first comprehensive empirical study of environmental criminal prosecutions in the United States. The students obtain and review court documents from nearly 2,000 cases prosecuted from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2018, and create a searchable database about all pollution prosecutions investigated by the EPA during that time frame.
The database facilitates research and analysis about criminal enforcement, including the charges that are most frequently brought, the size of the corporations involved, case outcomes, discretionary factors that make environmental violations criminal, and geographical disparities in criminal enforcement under the environmental laws. Research results have been published by the Harvard Environmental Law Review, the Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law, the American Bar Association, and the Environmental Law Institute and have been featured in the New York Times.
The Green Gavels Project
Every year, the Michigan Supreme Court makes decisions that have a critical impact on environmental protection and natural resources use. The Court's role is likely to increase in future years as the state grapples with issues pertaining to water rights, sulfide mining, land use, and air quality.
The Green Gavels Project began in 2012 with a review of Michigan Supreme Court decisions over the last two decades to identify all decisions that have promoted or hindered environmental protection. The Project is continuing during Fall 2020 with a report timed to coincide with the lead-up to the November election.
Students working on the project analyze each decision and produce summaries that explain the significance of the decision and how each Supreme Court justice voted. The information is then provided to the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, which produces a non-partisan online report about the role of the Court and the voting records of individual justices that will be broadly available to the public on a website that is heavily marketed, easily discovered, and seamlessly navigated.
The project is a model for efforts to assess how elected state Supreme Courts are influencing conservation efforts throughout the United States.