Law School launches new environmental law clinic

The University of Chicago Law School has announced the creation of the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic, which will offer students sophisticated training in environmental litigation, policy and regulation.

The clinic is named for James and Wendy Abrams, in recognition of their support of the University and their dedication to legal and environmental issues. The new clinic is the first step of a planned expansion of the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, which would guarantee clinical experience to all law students.

“I am delighted to have Jim and Wendy lend their energy, knowledge, and commitment to helping the Law School train the next generation of environmental lawyers and policymakers,” said Michael Schill, dean of the Law School.

“Clinical experience adds to the Law School’s core analytical training. It can teach students important practical skills, interpersonal skills and group dynamics and, more fundamentally, help them reflect on what it means to be a lawyer. In addition, the subject matter of the clinic is critical to the world that we will leave to our children.”

Students at the clinic will pursue environmental litigation through legal cases and amicus briefs, in addition to doing policy work by drafting proposed statutes and commenting on regulations. The Law School has begun a search for an assistant clinical law professor to direct the clinic, adding to the Law School’s strong faculty who do work on environmental issues including Profs. David Weisbach and Eric Posner, both of whom work on climate change issues, and Visiting Professor Eric Biber, an environmental and natural resources law scholar.

The Abramses were drawn to help create the new environmental law clinic because it combines two subjects for which they care deeply: the law and the environment.

“It is exciting to see our passions come together in this way,” said Jim Abrams.

A 1987 graduate of the Law School, Jim Abrams is the chief operating officer of Medline Industries, America’s largest privately held medical equipment manufacturer. Wendy, a passionate environmental advocate, is on the board of trustees of Waterkeeper Alliance, working to protect the nation’s water, and was the force behind Chicago’s 2007 Cool Globes exhibit.

“It is not just the legal cases that the students will be exposed to while they are working at the clinic,” said Wendy Abrams. “It is the hope that they will continue to use the training they get there long after they leave the University.”

Jim Abrams agreed, saying, “This really tries to put into action for future classes of law students the goal of responsible stewardship.”

Schill and the Abramses share a broader vision to someday grow the clinic into a forum that reaches across campus to tackle environmental issues.

In announcing the gift Dean Schill said he hopes the strong interdisciplinary focus of the University of Chicago will bring faculty and students together to magnify the impact of the Abrams Clinic. 

“Protecting our environment in the face of global warming is one of the most important challenges of our generation,” said Schill. “There is no better place to work toward that end than this University.”