Howard University School of Law and Environmental Law Institute Set Precedent with Innovative Clerkship

February 2022

(Washington, D.C.): The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) and Howard University School of Law recently concluded the first year of their unique Environmental Justice Clerkship. The clerkship program is designed to train, mentor, and ultimately retain more law students of color in the field of environmental law while advancing meaningful environmental justice efforts. The clerks’ experience at ELI is designed to dovetail with the opportunities offered at Howard Law, including its Environmental Justice Center—the first in the United States—and courses dedicated to providing experiential and academic training in environmental law and justice.

“The core of this clerkship program is finding ways to support law students pursuing a career in environmental justice,” explained ELI President Jordan Diamond. “We’re focused on facilitating the skill-building, substantive education, and networking that help form a solid professional foundation and opportunities for the future. We couldn’t be any more grateful and delighted to be partnering with Howard Law on this important endeavor.”

With the generous support of our funding partners, one Howard Law student each semester and over the summer is paid to work closely with ELI experts on a variety of projects with an emphasis on environmental justice. Each clerk’s collection of projects is selected based on that individual’s interests and aspirations. Through those projects, ELI staff help the clerks hone their legal research, analysis, and writing skills.

In addition to skill-building and substantive education, the other emphasis of the clerkship is the networking critical to a solid professional foundation. To broaden each clerk’s exposure to environmental career options, ELI staff arrange a series of one-on-one conversations with highly accomplished lawyers with experience in the sectors and on the subjects of most interest to that clerk. ELI thanks the numerous volunteers who helped make this aspect of the clerkship so successful.

This past year, among many other projects, Sharde Slaw worked with Professor Barry Hill, an ELI Visiting Scholar, Adjunct Professor of Law at Vermont Law School, and former Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, on the fifth edition of his seminal textbook/handbook, Environmental Justice: Legal Theory and Practice. Meanwhile, Indigo Brown and Ellis Walton, as well as Noble Smith (an inspiration for this clerkship program), helped develop and write The BRIGHT Guide, a newly launched, free, online resource that helps communities develop and execute corridor projects in their own neighborhoods to produce positive health, ecological, and economic outcomes.

“The Environmental Justice Clerkship was excellent,” notes Sharde. “The clerkship supervisors ensured I gained practical experience working on subject areas I am most passionate about. Each project was challenging and fascinating, and I gained mentors in the field. I could not have asked for a better experience.”

ELI is proud to announce Kayla J. Gardner as the Summer 2022 Environmental Justice Clerk, and we look forward to big things from and for them.

ELI thanks the True Costs Initiative for its generous support of the 2021 clerkship, and law firms Crowell & Moring LLP, and Sive, Paget & Riesel, PC, both of whom provided generous support for the 2022-23 school year clerkships.