BC Law has a very unique opportunity called the Environmental Law & Policy teaching program. Under the supervision of a BC Law professor, pairs of 3Ls teach a course for BC undergrads based around environmental law.
One pair of 3L instructors, Meghan Morgan and Katie Kelliher, was kind enough to give us an inside look at what they’re teaching their students, as well as what they each take away from the program personally (in addition to the academic credit).
Explain your background and how you ended up at BC Law.
Meghan – I went to college in Florida and was living in Montana when I decided to enroll at BC Law; I had no ties whatsoever to Boston. I chose BC because I was interested in public interest law and felt that BC emphasized its commitment to helping students who want to pursue public interest careers. The whole “BC is the Disneyland of law schools” thing ended up being true, too.
Katie – Unlike Meghan, I grew up in Massachusetts and moved back to the greater Boston area after graduating from the University of Notre Dame. Although I applied to law school all across the country, I knew I wanted to eventually settle in Boston. So despite making me a traitor to my college football team (GO IRISH), I chose Boston College Law because it enabled me to gain a top tier legal education while developing a strong professional and personal network in my hometown.
How did you get involved with teaching undergrads at BC?
M – The short answer is Professor Plater. He has run the Environmental Law & Policy teaching program since the early 90s, and it’s the only one of its kind in the country. I decided early on that I wanted to pursue a career relating to Environmental and Land Use Law, and I was lucky enough to intern at the Environmental Protection Agency – Region 1, the Department of Justice’s Environmental Enforcement Section, and the Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor. I have also taken Professor Plater’s Environmental Law class and a host of related courses here at BC. I was initially nervous about taking on such an enormous responsibility, but it has already proven to be remarkably rewarding and beneficial. Teaching constantly reinforces the things I’ve learned in the classroom and through my relevant work experience.
K – My short answer is the same as Meghan’s: Professor Plater. I had Professor Plater for my first year Property class. I not only really enjoyed his style of teaching but also found him to be a kind as well as inspiring mentor. We remained in contact throughout my time in law school. Professor Plater knew of my interest in teaching and my dream of one day being an adjunct professor. Therefore, he encouraged me to take his Environmental Law class and apply for the teaching fellowship. It’s a program and opportunity I am so glad to be apart of!
Can you provide a description of the materials the course covers and your goals for what you want your students to walk away from the class having learned?
M – When we were designing our syllabus, our goal was to teach our students basic legal principles and structures using an environmental law framework. In a way, we treat the class as if we are teaching 1Ls; they learn the fundamentals of property law, tort law, contract law, administrative law, and civil procedure via environmental statutes, regulations, and case law. We aim to cover toxic torts and statutory regulation of toxics, environmental protection themes involving air and water pollution, natural resource preservation, environmental justice issues, and international environmental law. I personally want the students to walk away feeling like they are informed about timely environmental issues and policy, and that they could succeed in law school should they be interested in doing so.
How do the undergraduates compare to your law school classmates?
M – I’m not throwing any of my very talented law school classmates under the bus here, but the undergraduates really know their stuff. I am consistently amazed by how engaged my students are during class. It’s also interesting to have students who have no real intention of going to law school. Finance majors think about the material differently than Chemistry majors, who think differently than the English majors. Hearing varied opinions and perspectives keeps me on my toes.
K – Although the undergraduates come to class with less of a background in the material, none of them hide behind their laptop screens and will actively participate without the threat of a cold call looming over their heads.
How does teaching a course compare with the other things you do as a law student? Has it changed the way you approach your own classes?
M – For every hour I teach, I spend two-plus hours planning and going over the material. It’s a huge commitment, and it has made me a more conscientious student. I’m much more aware of the disservice I’m doing myself if I come to one of my own classes unprepared.
K – I also agree with everything Meghan said! I would just like to add I come to a new appreciation for the work, the time, and the effort my professors put into teaching my courses.
By teaching this course, what have you learned that you expect will be valuable when you graduate from BC Law?
M – One of the reasons I wanted to teach this course was to work out my public speaking nerves. I had a disastrous experience 1L year during my LRRW oral argument (hi Professor Chirba!) and spent all of 2L year desperately avoiding anything to do with that type of exercise. It dawned on me that one day I may need to be able to appear in court without fainting. The first day of teaching was probably the most anxiety-ridden I have been during my time at BC Law, but preparation and practice have negated those feelings. I owe it to my students to communicate new concepts to them the same way I will explain complex legal issues to clients: clearly, cogently, effectively.
K –I hope to be a trial attorney. Teaching, especially undergrads, helps me improve my trial techniques. Undergraduates are like a jury; often they do not come into class knowing all the legal terminology or the subject matter. So in every class, I have the opportunity to refine the basic skills every trial attorney needs; to be engaging, to communicate the complexities of an issue in an accessible manner, and to tell a story.
Any words of advice for students who are considering enrolling at BC Law?
M – Do it.
K – If you want a law school where you can learn the complexities of the law while being a part of a supportive and fun community, then BC is the place for you!
Meghan Morgan and Katie Kelliher are 3Ls at BC Law and instructors in the Environmental Law & Policy teaching program. To contact them about student teaching, BC Law, or law school in general, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com