Studying environmental law at Wayne State University Law School has prepared alumni to make an impact locally and beyond in a broad range of areas — from small companies to huge utilities to government agencies.
Francis Grunow, a 2010 alumnus, works in a small company to help with issues of land use in Detroit, 2007 alumna Cara McCarthy McNab works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help farmers and 2009 alumnus James Roush works with a utility on regulatory issues. All three of these Wayne Law graduates studied environmental law.
“Environmental law is far more than pollution and endangered species, as the field includes urban land use, food and agriculture, and energy,” said Wayne Law Associate Professor Noah Hall, an expert on environmental and water law. “Environmental law also challenges students to think about the future of their community and how to shape it for the better. These lessons and abilities transfer to many other areas of law and policy, whether local, national or global.”
Grunow, McNab and Roush work in different fields, but all three alumni use their background in environmental law to find solutions for people.
Addressing city land use
“We operate out of the Green Garage in Midtown Detroit,” Grunow said. “Most of our projects involve nonprofit organizations and matters of public policy, including work with environmental organizations. Last year, we worked with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, a regional water advocacy and conservation organization based out of Chicago, on a strategy for doing more work in Detroit.”
Grunow, who earned his bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Columbia University, recently wrote a series for online news magazine Model D about geography and urban planning, including a piece exploring Detroit’s relationship to water as a natural resource. He served as a senior policy analyst for Community Legal Resources and the Detroit Vacant Property Campaign from 2009 to 2010 and worked from 2004 to 2008 as executive director of Preservation
Wayne. His role with New Solutions Group allows him to combine his interests in community building and the environment.
“The best part is that I get to work to help people in Detroit, my hometown,” Grunow said.
He was attracted to Wayne Law because of its flexible evening program and its location, he said.
“Moreover, there were faculty members at Wayne Law who I had long admired,” Grunow said. “I was excited to learn from folks like John Mogk and Noah Hall, who gave me a great background in land use and environmental policy. I count them as friends today. I especially liked the practicum that the environmental law clinic provided me.”
The clinic, which began in 2009 and is under the direction of Assistant (Clinical) Professor Nick Schroeck, works with the nonprofit Great Lakes Environmental Law Center and – on selected issues – represents community organizations and public-interest groups. Clinic students, under the direction of experienced attorneys, prepare policy papers and formal legislative testimony and engage in judicial review and enforcement litigation. In 2011, the clinic joined forces with University of Windsor (Ontario) Law School to become the nation’s first Transnational Environmental Law Clinic.
“I work for an administrative agency, and I use the concepts I learned in Professor Hall’s Administrative Law class every day,” McNab said. “My legal education gives me a different perspective on the work of my agency. We administer the Federal Crop Insurance Program for the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.”
McNab graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy and worked for two years as an AmeriCorps member, at the same time serving on the Board of Directors for the Great Lakes Bioregional Land Conservancy in Lapeer and volunteering at two farms that followed the Community Supported Agriculture model. Then, she decided to further her avid interest in environmental law at Wayne Law.
“I took all of Noah Hall’s classes that I could, and was very happy with the education he provided,” she said.
Law and went to work with the USDA as a legal specialist in Washington, D.C.
“I worked in D.C. for several years, but I wanted to be closer to the land and farmers, so I started looking for positions in regional offices,” she said. “I saw this position in a beautiful area of the country with diverse agriculture, so I applied. The best part of my job is working with farmers and USDA staff. I live in Spokane now and consider it to be my adopted hometown.”
Working with regulations
Today, he specializes in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-related energy law matters, especially when they’re related to dams used for power generation.
“We have dams all over the state, and they’re heavily regulated,” Roush said. “It’s a very unique area of practice. I know of hardly anybody else who does this work.”
He worked at Bodman PLC on commercial litigation and property-related environmental issues from 2009 to 2012.
Roush said his environmental law courses at Wayne Law gave him a strong background on environmentalists’ views of utility companies and of the government’s view of utilities, as did his year of work before law school as a paralegal for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in the Energy Section. He finds being able to see all sides of the issues he deals with to be extremely helpful when it comes to finding solutions.
“One of the best parts of my job is that you’re very much at the interface of government and business relationships,” Roush said.
Said Hall: “Environmental law students learn to identify policy problems and develop practical solutions, and they gain the skills and expertise to put those solutions into action. Our environmental law program at Wayne Law prepares students for a wide range of careers and practice areas.”