Charlotte Raty L’23 is from Houston, Texas, and hopes to address climate change and its effects through environmental law.
This summer, I’m honored to have the opportunity to intern at Bayou City Waterkeeper (BCWK). BCWK is a Houston-based nonprofit organization focused on protecting waterways in the Lower Galveston Bay watershed. Its goals include ensuring access to clean water, protecting coastal ecosystems, and promoting sustainable development that addresses challenges created by climate change. BCWK does this work through community outreach and education, advocacy, cooperation with other nonprofits, and legal action. BCWK is a part of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization made up of waterkeepers across the United States and abroad.
As a Houston native, I’m very happy to be able to do environmental work in my hometown. I’m also excited to get hands-on experience in the field of environmental law through this internship. Legal interns at Bayou City Waterkeeper handle a range of tasks, including writing memorandums on legal issues, conducting factual research, and participating in meetings with other nonprofits and coalitions. I’ve learned a lot about environmental law both through my projects at BCWK and through working with lawyers in this field. I’m also getting a firsthand look at law in a nonprofit setting and how legal work comes together with advocacy in this context.
Due to COVID-19, the internship is fully remote. This can be challenging in an area of law with such a strong geographic component, and aspects of this work such as town halls and field work have been affected. To adapt to this, BCWK has held more events and meetings virtually, and my supervisor has made sure the legal interns still have chances to interact with her and with each other. There have also been some opportunities for fieldwork for Houston-based interns this summer.
My classes at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School have gone a long way towards preparing me for this internship. The techniques I learned in Legal Practice Skills were critical to a memorandum I wrote during the first part of the summer. The instruction and feedback I got from my LPS instructor, [Visiting Senior Lecturer] Matthew Duncan L’03, helped me conduct research on a topic I previously knew nothing about and concisely organize the information I found.
Additionally, the Land Use Law class I took during my 1L spring with Provost [and James S. Riepe Presidential Professor of Law and Education] Wendell Pritchett was my first exposure to the interaction between law and the environment. A practical knowledge of land use has provided a good foundation for my current work. In fact, learning about how regulations can guide development and shape how our communities use natural resources in Provost Pritchett’s class is a big part of why I hoped to have an environmental internship this summer.
I was able to apply for and receive federal work-study funding for this internship, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do public interest work this summer. Participating in an environmental law internship during my 1L summer has been empowering and rewarding, and I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learned at BCWK to my future work.