As an associate attorney at Earthjustice, Caitlin Miller spends her days advocating for the environment through litigation. Her passion and skills set her apart during a competitive interview process, and through relationship building and hustle, she was able to land her dream job in public interest environmental law.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a "typical" work day look like?
I am an associate attorney with Earthjustice. We are a nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to protecting the environment through litigation. We primarily litigate under federal environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act, trying to stop federal agencies from engaging in environmentally harmful actions. We also work with communities that are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards, such as Native American tribes and minority communities. I get to work in a collaborative environment with some of the most talented attorneys and legal staff around. A typical day includes doing legal research on our cases, drafting memoranda or filings, and consulting with our clients and partner organizations on how best to proceed with our cases.
How did you find your job?
I learned about Earthjustice when I was in college, and they were the epitome of what I hoped to do with my career long term. While at Colorado Law, I applied for a 2L summer clerkship in Earthjustice's Denver office and luckily got the clerkship position. I greatly enjoyed my time as a clerk and left with the goal of coming back to Earthjustice post-grad. After law school, I worked at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Staff Attorney’s Office for two years to get some experience under my belt and then applied for my current position with Earthjustice back in their Denver office. Although I knew almost everyone in the office from my time as clerk, I went through a very competitive hiring process for the associate position. But, it seems that my passion and skills came through during the interview process and I was hired for my dream job.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
The Career Development Office has some excellent staff and resources available for both students and alumni. Even though I had already been out of school for two year, I contacted my old counselor in the Career Development Office, Alexia McCaskill, for help editing my application materials. She was incredibly helpful in putting together the best application I could.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
I do legal research and write every single day at my job. It makes up the vast majority of my time. Knowing that I wanted to go into environmental litigation, I focused my time at Colorado Law on developing my research and writing skills. I joined the University of Colorado Law Review and took writing-heavy courses, like Advanced Air Pollution and the Natural Resources and Environmental Law Clinic.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and relationship building. How have your professional acquaintances (and friends) made a difference in your career?
The environmental community in Colorado is fairly small, so you develop relationships with other attorneys in this field quickly. One of my co-clerks from Earthjustice now works at an organization Earthjustice is representing in one of my cases and is our client point-of-contact. Maintaining these relationships is incredibly important to my career long-term, as the people I worked with in law school and will work with now at Earthjustice could be my clients or coworkers in the future.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Start thinking early about the skills your dream job would require and make a plan for obtaining those skills. The legal job market is competitive, so it's easy to get discouraged. But, if you've put in the work and developed yourself, employers will notice.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
One of the reasons I chose Colorado Law was the supportive and collaborative environment encouraged among the students. I didn’t want a stereotypical law school experience where students won’t share notes with each other and tear pages out of library books just to try and get an edge on their classmates. I left with friendships and professional relationships that I will maintain throughout the rest of my career. Colorado Law also provided me a great education with excellent and knowledgeable faculty. My time and money at Colorado Law were very well spent.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
In addition to the collaborative environment, I chose Colorado Law because it was a top 10 environmental law program. I went to law school knowing I wanted to practice public interest environmental law, and CU had an excellent program in my field.