Leslie Griffith, 2L, grew up in Spokane, WA before heading east to attend Duke University. Leslie graduated from Duke in 2009 with a degree in political science. Although she took a couple classes on environmental issues at Duke, she didn’t seriously consider environmental law as a career until late in college when she began thinking about law school.


After a year traveling and working at a coffee shop, Leslie arrived at HLS in the fall of 2010. She knew she wanted to try environmental law during her 1L summer, and she scheduled a career advising meeting with Alexa Shabecoff of OPIA to make a plan. “Alexa was great,” Leslie told me. “She really helped me understand what kinds of options were available to me, how I should approach those options, and what I could expect in terms of the application process.” On top of the helpful advice, Alexa put Leslie in touch with a 3L who had worked at EPA in Seattle the previous summer. That student, in turn, gave Leslie information about the office’s hiring process. Leslie applied for a summer internship position in January and, after a phone interview, they offered her the position in February.

Leslie really hit the ground running at EPA Seattle. She did many of the things you’d expect a legal intern to do—primarily legal writing and research—but her supervisors also helped her see how everything came together. Leslie attended strategy planning meetings and settlement negotiations and visited sites where EPA enforced wetlands violations. Leslie loved getting a chance to see how the national and regional EPA offices worked together and how they collaborated with the DOJ to undertake litigation. She even drafted referrals to the DOJ to launch some enforcement cases.

Leslie’s favorite thing about the position? “The incredible learning opportunity,” she responds. Leslie appreciated getting valuable insight into the environmental issues affecting the Pacific Northwest and Alaska—offshore oil drilling, mining, and salmon conservation, to name a few. Considering Leslie didn’t get a chance to take Environmental Law her 1L year, this was quite the primer!

When I asked Leslie if she had any advice for job-hunting 1Ls, she replied, “Don’t freak out!” Talk to older students, she encouraged, and make sure to come up with a game plan with OPIA. Leslie also suggested that students should consider geographical regions where they have built-in networks or where they ultimately want to live.

I prodded her for any last minute advice. “Go to Seattle!” she laughed. Leslie Griffith is a great example of what happens when you keep your cool, seek out advice and guidance, and pursue the opportunities you know will make you happiest.

Next summer Leslie will intern with Earthjustice in Washington, D.C.

Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Sean Hamidi