California Environmental Legislation and Policy Clinic

The California Environmental Legislation & Policy Clinic gives students a unique opportunity to experience the legislative process in California through direct work with legislative staffers, advocates, and stakeholders. Students work on cutting-edge environmental issues, contributing to innovative legislative solutions, and gain a nuanced understanding of what it takes to make law in California.

In the Clinic seminar, students learn the nuts and bolts of the California legislative process, legislative drafting, and lobbying. Guest speakers include attorneys, policymakers, and lobbyists at a variety of state agencies and organizations. Through their clinical work, students make valuable connections with environmental advocates, policy experts, and the legislative staffers with whom they collaborate.

Students in the Clinic work in small teams in collaboration with legislative staffers in the California State Senate and Assembly. Since the clinic’s launch in fall 2019, students have partnered on projects with the offices of State Senators Ben Allen (SD-26, Chair – Senate Environmental Quality Committee), Henry Stern (SD-27, Chair – Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee) and  Sydney Kamlager (SD-30, Member – Senate Budget Committee), and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (AD-56, Chair – Assembly Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee). 

Student Research Shapes Wildfires Bill

UCLA Law students in the California Environmental Legislation & Policy Clinic helped in creating a California wildfires bill.

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  • Clinic Faculty

    Julia Stein is Supervising Attorney and Project Director for the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law. Prior to coming to UCLA, she practiced at large private firms in Los Angeles,  focusing on environmental litigation, regulatory compliance, and land use practice, including litigating complex environmental cases in state and federal court, advising clients on compliance with state and federal environmental regulations, and assisting clients through land use entitlement and development processes. She also has experience lobbying, drafting legislation, and orchestrating research and comments on significant regulations.

    Stein earned her B.A. cum laude from Georgetown University, and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. During law school, she was a Global Law School and Teaching Fellow, and Senior Editor of the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review. Full bio.


    Beth Kent is an Emmett/Frankel Fellow in Environmental Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law for 2020-2022.  She was previously the Policy and Legal Fellow at the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust.

    Kent received her B.S. with Honors in Society and Environment and High Distinction in the College of Natural Resources from UC Berkeley. She earned her J.D. from UCLA School of Law with a specialization in Public Interest Law & Policy from the Epstein Program. Kent was a summer law clerk at Earthjustice and the California Office of the Attorney General in the Land Law Section and a legal extern at NRDC. Full bio.

  • Selected Clinic Work
    • Research support and fine-tuning of a legislative proposal to create a state-level Sea Rise Revolving Loan Fund enabling local governments to purchase and lease back property at eventual risk of sea level rise impacts. The legislation was introduced as SB 83 in January 2021 and passed in September 2021. This approach to sea-level rise will be the first state-level program of its kind in the nation. Read an NPR story and UPenn Wharton School Q&A with clinical attorney Julia Stein about the policy. 

     

    • Policy recommendations to augment wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts on the local level in Southern California, aggregating in-depth research and expert viewpoints from a wide range of sources. SB 63, introduced in January 2021 and passed in September 2021, incorporated these recommendations to create a pathway for increased state funding of the kind of equitable and community-oriented local wildfire prevention and mitigation imagined by Clinic students. Read a Legal Planet blog post by the students on their project and a UCLA Newsroom article about their research.

     

    • In 2019, students researched the state’s role in managing the transition of agricultural land fallowed under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act; proposed legislation to address perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, a group of persistent industrial chemicals used in carpeting, firefighting foam and other materials; and considered how state, regional, and local governments can improve land use planning and zoning efforts to reduce transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions. Read a UCLA Newsroom article about the fall 2019 clinic work. 
  • Student Experiences
    • "I've always been fascinated by the workings of the California Legislature. The clinic showed me what it means to be a legislative lawyer and how exciting that work can be. While law school often requires students to explore the interrelationship between the law and public policy goals, the clinic gave us the chance to design public policy from the ground up. We thought it would be difficult to contribute in an area that has received so much expert attention. This assumption proved untrue. By bringing together ideas from different fields, exploring initiatives in other states, and prioritizing community-based programs, we were able to reimagine how resources might be allocated to prevent wildfire in Southern California." Michael Cohen ’21

     

    • "Working on the wildfire research project was incredibly rewarding because we were trying to think of solutions to a real and immediate problem. Whereas a lot of law school entails working on abstract academic exercises or hypotheticals, through the clinic we were able to use our legal research, writing, and analysis skills to produce a work product that would be used to make actual policy changes. It was surreal to be doing research or meeting with my team members while the sky outside was dark orange and the air filled with smoke. Tackling this project during such a bad fire season really brought a sense of purpose to our work. Through the clinic, I had to identify a problem, conduct extensive research about why it exists, and write a well-reasoned and structured proposal about how to fix it. I think this is what I’ll often be asked to do as a lawyer. At the end of the day, lawyers are problem solvers, and the clinic allowed me to wrestle with one very complicated problem over the course of a semester." Leeza Arbatman ’22

     

    • "It was an exciting challenge to gather up such a large volume of information and translate it into effective policy. We spoke with a variety of experts from many different fields, and many of them had opposing views on what effective wildfire management should entail. These contradictions highlighted the importance of gathering information from a wide variety of sources with different perspectives, values, and priorities when developing effective policy. It has been incredibly rewarding to see that our hard work translated into real, tangible change, and I hope these measures help to protect Californians from the threat of wildfires." Shawna Strecker ’22

     

    • "It felt extremely rewarding to work on live issues with a live client-- legislation amendments for committee consultants that may actually be implemented. This clinic helped me develop and refine a legislative skill set that's a great tool in the larger advocacy toolbox." Amanda Dworkin ’20

     

    • "The clinic was the perfect way to familiarize myself with the complexities of legislative advocacy, policy making, and bill drafting. A lot of the post-graduate jobs I have been applying for are policy oriented. Being able to talk confidently during interviews about my work for the CA legislature has been really helpful." Matthew Simmons ’20

     

    • "My favorite part of the clinic was having substantial freedom and independence with amazing guidance from Professor Stein. I got to craft legislation from whole cloth, and while this was inherently challenging and overwhelming, the sky was the limit. It was a lot of on-the-fly learning, and every time something came up, it was on me to figure out how to solve the problem. I had the freedom to be creative and institute patchwork solutions drawing upon a multiplicity of laws. I would recommend the clinic to any and everyone. It doesn't matter if you're not focused on environmental [law] or not aiming to be a legislator or policy person. The problem solving and out of the box thinking skills are transferable and fungible, and the experience was rewarding beyond my expectations." Emme Tyler ’21
       
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