The Abrams Environmental Law Clinic attempts to solve some of the most pressing environmental problems throughout Chicago, the State of Illinois, and the Great Lakes region. On behalf of clients, the clinic challenges those who pollute illegally, fights for stricter permits, advocates for changes to regulations and laws, holds environmental agencies accountable, and develops innovative approaches for improving the environment.
Clinic projects are selected based on a number of different factors: the urgency of the environmental need, the clinic’s ability to address that need, the potential client’s commitment, and the level of student interest in the subject matter and in the type of proceeding. The clinic’s work broadly falls into six different categories: traditional Clean Water Act litigation, Clean Water Act-related rule makings and comments, water quantity litigation, drinking water advocacy, climate and energy litigation and policy, and land and mining litigation and policy.
Through Abrams Environmental Law Clinic participation, students learn substantive environmental law and procedures for addressing concerns through the courts or administrative tribunals. Students develop a number of core advocacy competencies, such as counseling clients, spotting issues, conducting factual investigations, performing practical legal research, advocating through written and oral communications, planning cases, managing time, and addressing ethical issues and dilemmas. In addition, students develop an appreciation for the range of strategic and tactical approaches that effective advocates use. Some matters will be best resolved in front of a judge, others in an adversarial hearing, others through face-to-face meetings with government officials, and others by putting public pressure on a polluter or administrative agency. Any given matter may require the use of one or more of these approaches simultaneously or sequentially, although in general, the clinic will deploy adversarial approaches to help achieve its clients’ objectives.