Profile in Brief: Paul Matouka, Nature Lover


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Paul Matouka’s parents instilled in him a deep love for nature, especially on backpacking and camping trips.

“At an early age I became concerned about the environment and environmental science seemed a good field to study,” he says.

He earned his undergrad degree in that field from Michigan State University, where one of his favorite courses was environmental law.

“My excellent professor, Robert Wilson, helped me fall in love with the complexity and nuance of the law,” he says.

Matouka headed to Wayne State University Law School, where he is now in his 3L year.

“I want to have a positive impact on the world and I thought law school would allow me to have the greatest impact,” he says.

He is particularly appreciative of the Wayne Law professors.

“They all care about the law, teaching the students, and are willing to put up with my incessant questions after class,” he says.

In his 2L year, Matouka was a member of Wayne Law’s team that finished as semi-finalists in the 2019 Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court
Midwest regional completion. The team earned the second best memorial award and Matouka received the first place speaker award.

“Seeing how all the effort our team put into the problem paid off once we got to our regional competition in Chicago was amazing,” he says. “I’ve always had a bit of anxiety with public speaking and walking up to the podium before every oral argument I would have butterflies in my stomach. But because of all the time we spent researching and practicing, the moment I started my argument I felt an almost serene calmness.”

Matouka, who is a member of the school’s Environmental Law Society, enjoyed the diversity of work during an externship at the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.

“I did significant amounts of pure legal research on regulatory matters but also worked on a project that involved translating a court filing into something that could be used to inform the public about the issues at stake and their importance,” he says. “This was a new experience for me and really opened my eyes to the importance of making the work that lawyers do accessible to everyone.”

Matouka earned a Freeman Fellowship to study this past summer for three weeks at The Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands.  

“One of the best things was meeting the other students—there were people from 90-plus nations so having discussions about the law and global politics was always very interesting, and hearing perspectives I don’t ever get exposed to in the United States was wonderful,” he says. “My studies consisted of going to lectures every day covering topics ranging from investor-state dispute resolution to the protection of cultural heritage.”

The highlight of his European trip was hiking el Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrims' ways leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.

“I covered 120 miles in six days and it was absolutely beautiful,” he says.

Matouka is currently clerking at Goodman Hurwitz, and James PC in Detroit.

“I love feeling like I’m making a difference,” he says. “The firm primarily focuses on civil rights litigation so I get satisfaction knowing we’re often helping those whom the government has abused and ignored. My work varies greatly—one day I’ll be doing legal research and another I’ll be conducting potential client intakes.”

Matouka’s career goal is for work that involves protecting the environment.

“I recognize this is a broad goal but it’s difficult to say where I’ll end up because I want to go where I’ll have the greatest impact,” he says. “I’m considering going into civil rights litigation and fighting for the recognition of a fundamental right to a healthy environment.”

A native of Oak Park, where he currently makes his home, Matouka terms himself as “pretty much a giant nerd”’ who enjoys backpacking, reading,
domestic and international politics, board games, video games, and the “Dungeons and Dragons” tabletop game.

“‘Dungeons and Dragons’ is a funny one because there is a lot of overlap with the law,” he says. “Essentially you have this set of rules and people take ‘actions’ that you apply the rules to and see what the result is.”