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In 2019 the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) selected Vermont Law School's Environmental Advocacy Clinic as legal counsel in its high impact litigation and policy advocacy, ushering in a wave of change on campus. The clinic (formerly the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic) was renamed, its students began tackling new environmental cases, and NWF's Legal Advocacy Director Jim Murphy arrived to direct the clinic and join the faculty.
Murphy, an alumnus, was no stranger to VLS; he earned an LLM in Environmental Law here in 2006 following degrees from UVM and Boston College Law School. He joined the NWF team after a stint as a legal intern at Conservation Law Foundation — and in his subsequent 17 years with the NWF, he's held positions as wetlands and water resources counsel, senior counsel, and director of legal advocacy.
"Jim has so much to offer our students as they learn how to become strong environmental lawyers, both because of his chief legal advocate role at National Wildlife Federation and his skills as an attorney,” said Associate Dean and Environmental Law Center Director Jenny Rushlow.
"Before coming to VLS, I knew Jim as a fellow practitioner in environmental public interest law, where he is respected not only for his savvy and substantive knowledge, but also as a strategic thinker and a good colleague. Bringing Jim to VLS was a no-brainer, and we are lucky to have him." — Jenny Rushlow, Associate Dean and Environmental Law Center Director
Caring deeply about water, energy, and climate issues, Murphy has worked to advance legal and regulatory solutions to carbon pollution; protect wildlife from harmful fossil fuel projects; promote clean, wildlife-friendly renewable energy; safeguard wetlands and waters from pollution and destruction; and protect endangered species. He has also represented NWF and other conservation groups in precedent-setting cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Courts.
Murphy is excited to be supervising clinic students as they research and draft documents that will end up in courtrooms and influence important cases. One such case is a challenge to the EPA that could stop the controversial Bristol Mine from destroying the world's most important salmon habitat in Alaska. "The case perfectly illustrates the world these aspiring lawyers live in," Murphy said. "They are coming of age in a time when we all too often back away from our obligations to be good stewards of our land, water, and wildlife. Young law students are eager to work hard to reverse that trend. They are shaping the future of the law."