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Meet California’s Aussie environmental enforcer

Meet California’s Aussie environmental enforcer

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Undertaking a Master of Laws at Melbourne Law School was a transformational experience for Clare Lakewood, helping her launch an international career in environmental law.

THE PUBLIC interest environmental lawyer writes about her international role and her advice for those aspiring to work in public interest law either in Australia oroverseas.

“After moving to California in 2013, I worked as a research associate with the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University, before starting as a staff attorney in the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity. 

The Climate Law Institute was established within the Center for Biological Diversity to confront climate change. Most of my work is focused on ensuring that government agencies,  at local, state and federal level, comply with the law when regulating or approving projects that enable or increase fossil fuelproduction.

I’m also involved in our work on international climate change law, from the perspective of ensuring the US commits to action at a level commensurate with its historic responsibility for climate change. Attending the Paris Agreement negotiations in December last year was a pretty big highlight!

My advice for those wanting to pursue a career in public interest law in Australia or overseas would be to not undervalue other legal experience you might have.

I didn’t actually graduate thinking public interest environmental law was an area in which I’d practice. I worked for the State Solicitor’s O ce in Western Australia until I moved overseas, and really enjoyed that. Although there was limited subject matter overlap with my current work, the time in the courtroom I got as a government lawyer was of interest to the Center.

Don’t be too shy to reach out to people. I was amazed by how generous people were with their time and their willingness to make introductions. If you know that there is another country in which you want to work, take as many relevant units as you can with lecturers from that country. They’ll form part of your network there.

Lastly, know that jobs in public interest law exist! I very nearly didn’t become a lawyer at all, because I didn’t feel that commercial law or community legal services was for me, and I didn’t know what else was out there.

Ultimately my goal is to bring back to Australia what I’ve learned about public interest environmental work in the US. 

Australia has one of the world’s major biodiversity hotspots, and incredibly unique and special ecosystems. It is also going to be one of the countries most a ected by climate change, and is far behind the US in dealing with environmental justice issues.”

For more information on the Melbourne Law Masters, please visit:


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Meet California’s Aussie environmental enforcer
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