Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the United States and abroad. This dispatch from Adeline Rolnick L’18 is one in a series of firsthand accounts by Law School students about how their summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers. Rolnick is from Croton-on-Hudson, New York, and plans to pursue a career in public interest environmental law after graduation.
This summer, I am interning for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in New York City. I worked in environmental advocacy before law school and came to Penn Law planning to pursue a career in public interest environmental law. Since my background is in government affairs, I was excited to use this summer to explore environmental litigation and to see whether that’s a career path I want to pursue. I was thrilled to land at NRDC, where I’ve had the opportunity to see how a national environmental organization uses litigation to advance its policy and advocacy goals.
NRDC was founded in 1970 and played a role in the passage of many of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws. Today, there are about 500 staff in offices nationwide and in Beijing, with about 200 in the New York headquarters. While some of the other NRDC legal interns are spending the summer working with programs devoted to a certain issue area (such as oceans, energy, or food and agriculture), I am working with the litigation team, which is made up of 17 attorneys — including four in New York — who work across issue areas to advance NRDC’s goals through litigation. This means that the litigation team attorneys tend to work on a huge variety of issue areas all over the country: everything from bringing a case under the Americans with Disabilities Act to fight mold in New York public housing to suing a company responsible for dumping tons of mercury into a river in Maine.
At NRDC, most of my time has been spent conducting legal research and writing memoranda for cases the litigation team has been working on. I’ve had the opportunity to research legal issues related to antibiotic use in industrial agriculture and testing children for elevated blood lead levels under Medicaid. While I’ve certainly drawn on what I learned while taking Environmental Law and Civil Procedure during 1L year, the 1L class that has proved by far the most useful is Legal Practice Skills (LPS). From my first day at NRDC, I’ve been applying the research and writing skills we were taught in LPS, and it’s because of that training that I feel confident doing research in areas of the law that are totally novel to me.
I’ve also been able to draw on some of the environmental science I learned in a graduate seminar this spring, and this summer has made me glad for my decision to pursue a dual degree in environmental studies at Penn. Interning at NRDC has affirmed my desire to pursue a career as a public interest environmental attorney, and I’m excited to return to Penn to continuing pursuing this goal through my coursework, both within and outside the Law School.
- Adeline Rolnick