As a public interest law firm, we know our work goes beyond our issues and lawsuits, and includes supporting and nurturing attorneys who want to pursue work in environmental law now and into the future. Our post-graduate fellowship program allows recent law school graduates or established attorneys to get two years of experience and mentorship in all facets of the work we do. Here, we share a Q&A with Rachel Briggs, who joined us as a fellow in 2019 and later became a Trustees attorney.
By Presley West
Rachel Briggs graduated from Lewis and Clark Law School in 2018, where she earned a certificate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law and was a member of the Environmental Law Review. While in law school, Rachel worked for public interest environmental firms including Crag Law Center, Earthjustice, and Earthrise Law Center. Prior to law school, Rachel was the Eastern Grassroots Organizer for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
She joined Trustees for Alaska as a legal fellow in the fall of 2019 and transitioned into a staff attorney position in June of 2020. Below, she talks about her experience as a legal fellow and how it helped shape her work today.
Why did you apply for the Trustees for Alaska legal fellowship position?
I was looking for something pretty much exactly like it. I had just finished a clerkship with the Alaska Supreme Court, and I knew I wanted to stay in Alaska, and I knew I wanted to do environmental law. That was why I went to law school. I was scouring Alaska job descriptions for that perfect thing, and I wasn’t finding it. I was trying to think of other things I could potentially do that, you know, might be enjoyable, but they weren’t the things I wanted to do. And then that job description popped up, and I was really excited.
Can you share some of the highlights from your experience as a fellow?
From day one of the fellowship, I was getting to work on these really big, interesting questions and on environmental law, including cases like the Pebble case that I had known about previously for years and had followed. It was exciting to be let into that work as a legal fellow and to be given the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way by helping to draft briefs and participate in the coalitions. I really felt like I was a part of those things that I’d wanted to work on, and given not only opportunities to jump right in, but the mentorship to succeed at doing so.
I have just felt immensely lucky and grateful for the mentorship I’ve received at Trustees. I was able to work side by side with experienced and talented attorneys to really be let into their process and see how they handle some of these things, and then given the opportunity to try it for myself. The support and backup of those experienced people allowed me to have the confidence to really try something and know that I had the support I needed to succeed and the backup if I had questions.
How do you feel like the fellowship helped prepare you for the next stages of your career?
I moved pretty quickly from the fellowship into a staff attorney position, which is not standard for the fellowship position. It was a pretty smooth transition from fellowship to staff attorney, and I’ve just kind of been continuing to grow along the way.