Law school adds Environmental Law Clinic

University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, in partnership with the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, will launch an Environmental Law Clinic to aid organizational clients and teach students how to affect regulatory policy in all three branches of state, provincial and federal government in both the United States and Canada.

“I’m thrilled about introducing the new Environmental Law Clinic at Detroit Mercy Law,” said Nick Schroeck, director of Clinical Programs and associate professor of Law. “Our clinic will help address critical and unmet areas of public interest environmental law. The clinic will have a cross-border focus, working on issues of importance for the Great Lakes and air quality on both sides of the border. Our students will also represent organizations in Detroit and Michigan that are dedicated to assisting our most vulnerable citizens, who are often disproportionately subjected to high levels of pollution.”

The Environmental Law Clinic will launch in January 2019. The primary focus areas of the clinic will be Great Lakes water quality and quantity issues, with a particular emphasis on international agreements between the United States and Canada; environmental justice matters in Detroit, southeast Michigan, Windsor, Ontario and with Tribes and First Nations; transit issues; and historic preservation.

The clinic will offer law students the opportunity to learn regulatory processes while making an impact in policy development. Students will examine new and existing environmental problems, assist in bringing forth enforcement actions and regulations, represent public interest organizations, and provide testimony at public meetings and legislative committees.

Detroit Mercy Law will operate the clinic in partnership with the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center (GLELC), a Detroit-based nonprofit that offers community education, policy support and legal services to address environmental issues affecting communities in and around Detroit, Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

“Law students have always been an integral part of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center,” said GLELC Executive Director Nick Leonard. “They make important contributions to our work and learn important lawyering skills in the process. We’re excited to continue working with students through our partnership with Detroit Mercy Law.”

Clients will include public interest organizations and advocacy groups such as the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, a statewide coalition working to achieve a clean, healthy and safe environment for Michigan’s most vulnerable residents.

“Assistance from the legal community under the leadership of Professor Schroeck has been unbelievably helpful in adding capacity for communities that have suffered under environmental injustice for decades,” said Michelle Martinez, coordinator at the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. “We look forward to legal assistance from the new clinic to help address permit violations and to help limit new sources of pollution in communities that are already overburdened.”

Clinical experience is a requirement for all Detroit Mercy Law students and the Environmental Law Clinic will be the eleventh clinic in the school’s program. The other clinics on Detroit Mercy Law’s roster are Immigration Law, Criminal Trial, Veterans Law, Juvenile Law, Appellate Law, Intellectual Property Law, International Patent Law, Housing Law, Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance, Trademark and Entrepreneur, and Family Law. During the 2017-18 academic year alone, Detroit Mercy Law students provided more than 20,000 hours of free legal services to residents in Detroit and surrounding areas through the clinical program.

“Our clinics support Detroit Mercy Law’s mission to serve,” said Detroit Mercy Law Dean Phyllis L. Crocker. “The new Environmental Law Clinic will allow our students to support the work of environmental justice organizations and use their legal knowledge to advocate for better environmental quality, particularly in underserved communities. In the process, our students will learn what it means to work in service to others and gain real-world experience practicing law.”