Opening Statements

Wet Behind the Ears: Chicago Aquarium Offers Legal Fellowship

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Legal work often requires navigating murky waters, but DePaul University Law School student Brandon Clark never expected it would involve throwing on a pair of waders and collecting specimens in the Chicago River.

But as this year’s recipient of the Georges Fellowship for Conservation at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, Clark was happy to dive into the thick of things, whether it meant going into the field or conducting policy research. “For law students who may be interested in environmental law, they can test those waters in many different ways, but to be at the Shedd is really unique and it should be educational as well as fun,” says Michelle Parker, Shedd’s vice president of Great Lakes and sustainability.

The eight-week fellowship is granted to one law student every summer. The fellow produces a white paper on a topic the aquarium chooses and receives guidance from a mentor at Jones Day through its pro bono program. The Shedd fellowship was founded more than a decade ago by lawyer Liz Georges, a former volunteer at Shedd who fell in love with the aquarium while in law school. Georges wanted Shedd to have access to in-house legal expertise for policy research and to open up opportunities for students interested in conservation. Her family foundation supports the fellowship through an annual grant.

“Now more than ever before, it’s important for young law students to learn how to step out of the crushing grind of legal education, participate in a larger community beyond law school and imagine the possibilities,” says Georges, who went on to practice environmental law and now works in the conservation field.

Clark’s white paper for the fellowship was an overview of the regulatory and legal framework behind the management of Great Lakes fisheries. “If I could choose my dream job, I’d like to shape effective but intelligent environmental regulations and policies,” says Clark, now a 2L.

Stimulating that kind of commitment is the goal, Georges says. Past fellows have gone on to work for organizations such as Earthwatch and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“At Shedd we hope you’re inspired, we hope you’re touched and that you see the world in a little different way after spending time with us,” Parker adds. “That’s what we hope for the Georges fellows as well.”

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