UC Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic receives $250,000 donation

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A donation from the family of Mitch Zuklie, UC Berkeley School of Law alumnus, and Orrick, a law firm where Zuklie acts as CEO and chairman, will total $250,000 over the course of five years.

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As climate change continues to leave its mark on the world, UC Berkeley School of Law’s Environmental Law Clinic received a gift made in an effort to further advocacy and environmental justice work.

The gift, totaling $250,000 over five years, was made by the family of Mitch Zuklie and Orrick — a law firm where Zuklie, Berkeley Law alumnus, serves as chairman and CEO — according to a Berkeley Law article. The donation, which will allow the clinic to continue its work in environmental health and justice, also unlocked an anonymous $1 million gift.

The money will go towards augmenting the clinic’s attorney teaching staff, who oversee and supervise students as they gain hands-on experience during their time at the clinical program.

“I am thrilled by Mitch Zucklie’s and Orrick’s gift to the Environmental Law Clinic,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of Berkeley Law, in an email. “This also will lead to close collaboration between our clinic and the Orrick firm. Additionally, this gift allows us to receive $1 million gift based on a match requirement. It is really terrific for Berkeley Law.”

Recently, a key part of the clinical program’s action against climate change involves bringing climate justice activists into conversations with big green environmental organizations, according to clinic director Claudia Polsky.

Polsky said it is necessary for the two parties to work together in order for climate change progress to be made.

“We focus on two broad areas: environmental justice and environmental health,” Polsky said. “The environmental health encompasses a wide range of environmental issues that are detrimental to human health. Environmental health threats are things that can impact the population at large, not just smaller communities.”

As part of their program, the clinic trains 30 to 40 students each year in fields related to environmental advocacy, administrative agency practice and litigation, legislation and policymaking, according to the article. Clinic students have recently joined in litigation and advocacy efforts with California’s Public Utilities Commission to accelerate the transition to clean energy in the state.

Focusing on how marginalized and lower-income communities can be negatively impacted through greater exposure to environmental hazards, the clinic strives to create a collaborative environment for students to come together in search of solutions, according to the article.

According to Zuklie, with the rate at which environmental problems are currently growing, it is necessary for cohesive action to be made between all sectors of society, ranging from governmental to grassroots efforts.

“It advances our objectives to expand our efforts on sustainability in all senses, it’s a fit with our renewables, energy tech and energy litigation practices,” Zuklie said during an interview with Berkeley Law. “It creates connections with the next generation of Berkeley Law students.”

Samantha Lim is a race and diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sssamanthalim.