Defending a client against a state enforcement action is challenging enough. Add front-page headlines to the case, and the complexities multiply.
That's what Cameron Field JD/MELP '13 discovered when his Madison, Wis., firm—Michael Best & Friedrich, LLP—defended a company that operated a manure digester facility, which experienced some manure spills.
The digester was constructed to reduce the phosphorus level in the watershed around Madison and create bio-gas energy to aid manure management. Because the facility was built through a public-private partnership, its problems generated press interest and caused, for Field's client, "a declining public image as a result of negative media coverage," he says.
Eventually public scrutiny decreased, but then the case became more complicated—an accident caused an explosion at the facility.
"It again thrust the client onto the front page of the state newspaper in the middle of our discussions with the state," Field says.
His role was to draft letters in response to the state's enforcement action and write talking points for the client for enforcement conferences. He also worked with experts on reports to determine the cause of the alleged noncompliance. Ultimately, his firm brought the client back into compliance.
"Our representation helped guide the client through the environmental enforcement process and advocate our client's best interests and scientific position while managing the client's public image," Field says.
Although Field's work as an associate attorney with his firm doesn't usually generate front-page news, there's variety as he helps clients with the environmental regulatory process, focusing on water law. He also works with the energy sector and food and beverage industry.
Field's education at Vermont Law School prepared him well for the research and writing he does.
"VLS was imperative to giving me a background in environmental statutes that helped me hit the ground running," he says.
Professor David Firestone's contracts class was particularly helpful. "He pushed each student to be a strong, confident and articulate attorney, and that is an invaluable lesson one doesn't learn from just reading textbooks," Field says.
One of the greatest benefits Field gained from VLS is the network of alumni he confers with about policy issues—and others he expects to be lifelong friends.