Stephen Chesterton is a Natural Resources Specialist for the U.S. Forest Service in their Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers program in Washington, D.C. Chesterton’s job is primarily a policy position and he is involved in developing and revising agency guidance related to management of areas designated under the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. A typical day usually involves preparing briefing materials for agency decision-makers, attending meetings on policy or program projects, and tracking down answers to questions.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
Colorado Law helped me tremendously in my job search. The Career Development Office alerted me to the Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) opportunity and assisted me through the various assessment stages. Colorado Law also put me in touch with several alumni who have previously been hired through the PMF program. Additionally, I sought advice from many of my professors, who were very willing to talk with me about a potential career with federal land management or environmental agencies (which was my focus) and job search strategies.
As a law student at Colorado Law, what courses or practical learning experiences (i.e. internships, clinics) best prepared you for what you are doing now?
Because the U.S. Forest Service is, among other things, a federal land management agency, courses such as Public Lands Law, Administrative Law, and the Advanced Natural Resources Law Seminar provided a very useful foundation for my current work. Also, my experience as a research assistant at the Natural Resources Law Center (newly named the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment), participation in the Natural Resources Litigation Clinic, and my externship at the EPA's Office of Regional Counsel really helped to familiarize me with the personalities of various federal agencies, including their histories, key functions and responsibilities, and how they operate.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
A professional network isn’t just about getting a job, although it may end up helping. It’s about establishing relationships, building on them, and learning from them. The importance of those relationships doesn’t end when you get your first job out of law school, either. My professional network is constantly growing and evolving. I’ve definitely relied on people I met at Colorado Law to help me pursue opportunities in the PMF program. The people I've interacted with over the past two years while working for the U.S. Forest Service have also expanded my network and helped me to learn and grow as a professional. These interactions provide opportunities to hear about other perspectives and experiences while sharing my own.
What advice would you give to current Colorado Law students with respect to making the most of their legal education?
Recognize your strengths and weaknesses and use law school as an opportunity to improve both—through your coursework, practical experiences, and in the people and communities you engage with. Also, take classes that interest you, not necessarily just classes you feel like you need to take to pass the bar. Colorado Law provides great opportunities to tailor your legal education to one that best suits your needs and interests.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
It is a fantastic community of students, professors, and staff. Colorado Law will challenge you while providing a supportive environment to develop a well-rounded professional skill-set. And the combination of opportunities around you, from an academic, professional, and extracurricular standpoint, is tough to match.