Fighting the Good Fight
What do you do with a BA in environmental studies? Generally, you work in a laboratory or you do fieldwork. But neither of those felt quite right to Allison Kvien ’13.
Kvien had always had an interest in political science and, after taking Philosophy of Law with Assistant Professor of Philosophy Matthew McCabe, she developed a curiosity for philosophy. Environmental law seemed like a good way to combine all of her interests, but Kvien held onto that as just an idea or a tentative plan at best. Until, that is, she interned with the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice (ECS).
“I found the position through a little bit of networking,” says Kvien. “I originally talked to my neighbor, who is involved in environmental crimes cases, and he put me into contact with the people at the Department of Justice.”
One resume submission, one interview and two antsy weeks of waiting later, Kvien was offered the position of summer intern.
Most students who complete internships are aware of stereotypical “intern” tasks— things like photocopying, filing and getting coffee. For the first week or two of her internship, Kvien’s role fell into that field. But eventually her persistent offers of help paid off, and a program specialist gave her editing rights to a database. Kvien got it up and running without too many hitches, so her supervisors gave her more challenging tasks. And so it continued until the end of her internship.
“I know that they could have easily given me only grunt work to do because there was more than enough of it around, but they gave me all sorts of interesting projects instead,” says Kvien.
ECS attorneys handle pollution and wildlife cases concerning individuals and companies. They prosecute statutes like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The Section also serves as a database of information on how to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes.
During her time there, Kvien drafted responses to appeals, organized libraries of legal resources and assisted senior trial attorneys in preparing for witness interviews. And she updated and digitally improved the environmental crimes manual, HerbLaw.
“One of the coolest things I was able to do was to watch an environmental crimes trial that a lawyer from our office was prosecuting. I found it incredibly informative, interesting, and entertaining to be able to sit in on the trial and watch what exactly the lawyers experienced in the courtroom,” says Kvien. “The case was on an APPS (Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships) violation, and the lawyer from ECS ended up winning his case.”
After spending the 2011 summer at ECS, Kvien returned in 2012. Following graduation, she will attend the University of Minnesota Law School. And she knows exactly what she’s going to study.
“Before my internship, I wasn’t sure that environmental law was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” she says. “After I had this great opportunity, I was sure that I wanted to pursue environmental law.”