Travis Bruner is the executive director at Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit conservation group. The mission of Western Watersheds Project is to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives, and litigation. A typical day for Bruner primarily involves discussing litigation strategies, policy pressure points, and media campaigns with staff, attorneys, agency representatives, and other environmental organizations. In addition to writing media releases and federal court filings, during the summer and fall, he spends significant time in the field, monitoring the condition of wildlife habitats and drawing the attention of BLM and Forest Service representatives to the impacts of anthropomorphic activities, such as livestock grazing, in wildlands.
How did you find your job?
I attended law school with the intention of working for a public interest conservation organization. During law school, I interned with two such organizations and a government agency. This provided me with substantial relevant experience.
My principal interest lies in protection and restoration of public land. For me, it was always more important to find a job consistent with my values than to find a traditional “attorney” position. In fact, during my law school experience, I concluded that while practicing as an attorney would certainly be interesting and rewarding, I am just as well suited to strategizing around policy, media, and litigation, as I am to arguing in a courtroom. Fortunately, in my current work, I will be able to do all of the above.
Ultimately, I found out about my position by closely watching the websites of organizations for which I had an interest in working. When a position came up at one of those organizations, even if not the ideal position, I would apply because I knew that would afford me the chance to meet those folks. Once I spoke with the leadership at Western Watersheds Project about another position, the opportunity to apply for executive director came up, and now here I am.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
The Career Development Office helped me prepare for interviews and talk through career options. Extensive conversations with Assistant Dean Todd Rogers really helped me think more about how to approach employers, brought me confidence, and helped me hone my interview skills. Discussion with professors helped me consider the big picture and how my career might unfold.
The contacts I made in law school and during internships have turned out to be useful personal and professional contacts. I frequently find myself on conference calls with people I met during law school internships and research projects.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
At Colorado Law, I learned how to recognize the most important passages of judicial opinions and orders, and that saves me a lot of time when preparing for litigation strategy discussions. Additionally, extensive course offerings in public lands, natural resources, and environmental law provided me with the opportunity to become familiar with the relevant federal statutes at play in my day-to-day work.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Do not underestimate the importance of writing and interpersonal skills. In the end, when you really break it down, that’s all we do - read, write, listen, and talk. Don’t forget about the listen part. If I recall, law students are often good talkers but aren’t always the best listeners. No one wants to work with someone who doesn’t know how to listen. If you really listen - patiently, thoughtfully, deeply - the other person senses that and appreciates it. Furthermore, real listening allows us the space and presence of mind to make calculated, effective decisions.