Political Passion: Law student worked in Senate, interned at The White House


University of Michigan Law School student Seth Bechsbaum has interned, worked, and clerked in Washington, D.C., including — for a five-month period in 2010 — at The White House.


by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

There can’t be many University of Michigan students who have been up close and personal with members of the First Family – let alone the “First Dog.” But Seth Buchsbaum enjoyed that experience during a five-month spell in 2010 as an intern for the Office of Energy and Climate Change in The White House.

“The White House was great. I got to do incredibly important work as an undergraduate intern, and sort of live out the real-life West Wing experience,” says Buchsbaum, who earned his U-M undergrad degree in physics,
and political and environmental policy.

“I loved meeting the First Lady – and making her laugh! But I think my favorite famous encounter was petting Bo Obama!”

After graduating from U-M in 2011, Buchsbaum spent two years as a staff assistant for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

“It was an eye-opening look at the real political process,” he says. “I learned not only how the sausage is made, so to speak, but also who holds power and how it is expressed in everyday interactions.”   

After his experience in the nation’s capital, Buchsbaum returned to Ann Arbor in 2013 to pursue a dual degree: his J.D. from U-M Law School and his M.S. degree from the School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Environmental law lies at the intersection of his passions: science, policy, and making a difference in the world.

“I believe that everyone has a way they can contribute to society, and this is the one that makes the most sense for me,” he says.

The son of MLaw adjunct professor Andy Buchsbaum, vice president for Conservation Action at the National Wildlife Federation, Buchsbaum is thoroughly enjoying his return to the Wolverine halls of learning.

“The culture surrounding this place is overwhelmingly supportive, kind, and professional without taking itself too seriously,” he says. “It fits my personality perfectly, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for any other.”

Buchsbaum spent his 2015 summer months in D.C. as a law clerk at Earthjustice, a nonprofit public interest law organization with nine regional offices, an international program, and legislative policy and communications advocacy teams.

“Earthjustice fills a unique place in the environmental non-profit world – it’s essentially a litigation firm built just to represent nonprofits and community members to protect the environment,” he explains. “While other organizations have litigation shops, none has the built-up expertise present in every corner of the building.”

The previous summer was spent in Boulder as a legal intern at the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the world’s largest nonprofit environmental organizations, with more than one million members and a staff of 500 scientists, economists, policy experts, and other professionals around the world.

“EDF is unique as the nonprofit environmental organization perhaps most willing to work with the business community to accomplish its environmental goals,” he says. “I loved being able to work in the intersection of law and national policy in a place as beautiful as Boulder.”

The Ann Arbor native has nothing but praise for “Tree Town.”

“I love Ann Arbor,” he says. “I think it’s the perfect size for a city – always something going on, but easy to become familiar with.”

Buchsbaum’s own “something always going on” includes serving as Managing Editor of the Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law; and previously serving as co-chair of the Environmental Law Society, social chair of the Frank Murphy Society, a supervisor for the Environmental Crimes Project, and a member of the Public Interest Students Association Board.

He also served on the search committee for a climate economist in the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Despite his heavy study and volunteer workload, Buchsbaum has plenty of hobbies and interests. He plays a few instruments, primarily cello; is an avid reader and started a book club in the Law School; plays a variety of intramural sports, and has played Ultimate Frisbee for a few national-level teams in the last few years; enjoys board games; attends a large number of Michigan sporting events; and sings in the Law School a cappella group, the Headnotes.