Transformer: Environmental lawyer aiming to recreate state's beauty

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

An Iraqi-American who was born in Baghdad, in his youth Oday Salim read a lot about the horrific draining of Iraq’s marshlands and the consequent displacement of the indigenous Marsh Arab population.

“So from an early age the interrelationship of the natural environment and human communities has fascinated me,” he says.

That fascination culminated in him being hired in early September as senior attorney at the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, which partners with the Wayne State University Law School’s Transnational Environmental Law Clinic.

“I’m looking forward to working in an ever-transforming Detroit and to recreating all over the most beautiful state of our union,” he says.

“Apart from being important, being an environmental lawyer is also great fun because I get to learn and work on interesting topics like ecology and urban studies.”

Salim is back on familiar turf in his hometown of Detroit. He received his undergrad degree from Wayne State University and his J.D. from Wayne Law, where he participated in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition and Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, served on the board of the Journal of Law in Society, and was a research fellow at GLELC.

“Being on the journal and on the moot court teams gave me a chance to shift from studying alone for exams to working as part of a team on complex projects,” he says. “The moot court competitions also gave me a chance to do what I love to do most, which is argue vigorously in front of others.

“I loved going to school in Detroit and taking advantage of its great cultural offerings,” he adds. “I also benefitted so much from the law school’s outstanding faculty – particularly Noah Hall who, in terms of my professional network, is the main reason I am where I am today.”

Salim also holds an LL.M. degree in environmental and natural resources law from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., where he worked on issues such as renewable energy and sustainable storm water management.

“Getting my advanced law degree was the perfect move, and one that Noah Hall advised me to make,” he says. “The course variety allowed me to broaden and deepen my knowledge of environmental law; the environmental law clinic gave me valuable insights into day to day legal practice; and I had a wonderful time in Portland, which is weird in the best way possible.”

Salim most recently served as senior attorney at Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services in Pittsburgh, and previously was staff attorney at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law’s Environmental Law Clinic.

“My work at both consisted mainly of providing legal services to people and organizations with limited resources,” he says. “Each organization was focused on increasing access to justice, which is crucial. It thrilled me to be able to represent people who likely would have gone without representation were it not for the clinic and Fair Shake.”

For the past five years, Salim has shared his expertise by teaching a two-week summer seminar on oil and gas law as an adjunct professor at Lewis & Clark Law School; and also as an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh, teaching Energy Law & Regulation.

“I owe so much to various teachers of mine who not only taught their courses well, but invested significant time in my academic and professional development. I wouldn’t be where I am without them, and their good deeds inspire me to apply that same kind of commitment and attention to others,” he says. “Teaching also provides a venue for my comedy and a captive student audience who luckily for me, since I grade them, feel somewhat obliged to laugh.”

The Birmingham resident, who has lived in Baghdad, Detroit, Illinois, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and France, enjoys baking, medieval history, British television, and typography. He also is looking to get involved with urban development groups in and around Detroit – “Especially those that focus on the triple bottom line of economic, environmental, and social benefits,” he says.

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