"Litigation is a set of different chess moves"

Scott Breen, ’15, participated in the Conservation Law Clinic

What I did. I worked on a variety of matters in my year at the Clinic. I filled out the IRS 1023 form so that our client, The Alliance for Indiana State Parks and Nature Preserves, could obtain 501(c)(3) status; answered client questions including how to ensure an Indiana waterway is open for public recreational use; and wrote several substantive legal memos in preparation for litigation where the ownership of the Lake Michigan shoreline was at issue. Aside from the engaging legal work, we also met as a group each week to discuss readings related to the Endangered Species Act. These discussions vastly improved my knowledge of this landmark legislation. They also challenged me to think about if the statutory text and the regulations enforcing it are effective and how they could be improved.

What was most interesting. I think the most interesting aspect of my work was seeing first-hand the different chess moves that are made in litigation. For example, in the litigation involving the ownership of the Lake Michigan shoreline, we represented intervenors in the case so we were one of a number of co-defendants. I was able to hear the strategy discussion among the different attorneys, technically all on the same side, and gained an appreciation for the delicacy of this situation where each attorney wants to win but also do what is best for the client. I was also included in the discussion of how to frame our position at oral argument.

What surprised me. How hard it could be at times. I say this as a positive. I was pushed to write with greater clarity, totally devoid of any grammatical errors or unnecessary words. Good was not good enough. The supervising attorneys expected expert work from us both because they knew it would improve our legal skills and because our clients deserve nothing less.

What I’m doing now. I have joined the Attorney Honors Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As part of this Program, I will do three six-month rotations in the NOAA Office of the General Counsel and then be permanently placed in a legal section in Washington, D.C.

What’s been most helpful. Two things: 1) a support system composed of my fellow environmental law enthusiasts and 2) my two life and attorney role models — Jeff Hyman and Bill Weeks. The people I worked with in the clinic are people that I will stay in contact with after graduation. I have no doubt we will support each other as we find our way in the environmental law field. I think the greatest benefit of working at the clinic was working under the tutelage of Jeff and Bill. They do more than provide useful feedback; they lead by example. They are meticulous, sharp lawyers who operate on a level that I will continuously strive to achieve in my career. They are also incredibly selfless people. I am both better prepared to be an attorney and a better person after participating in the clinic.