Female graduate wearing Stetson shirt with mountains in background

Alumni Success Stories in Environmental Law -
Meet Katie Cleveland Bright

Name: Katie Cleveland Bright
Year Graduated from Stetson Law: 2015
Short Bio:
Katie Cleveland Bright graduated with B.A. in Political Science and Psychology at Stetson University and went on to Stetson University College of Law where she graduated with a certificate of concentration in environmental law and was the recipient of the Hearne Environmental Law Award. After graduation, she took the Oregon Bar exam and began working at the Ocean Conservancy.

What was your inspiration for wanting to practice environmental law?

I’ve always found solace spending time in nature — something that was instilled in me at a very young age. I grew up camping, hiking, and enjoying the outdoors, but as I got older, I saw how real the threats facing the environment are. It’s hard to ignore the effects of climate change while living in Florida and even harder to ignore how oil and gas drilling practices hurt the Gulf of Mexico and those who live and depend on it. I went to law school so that I could be a voice for the voiceless and help ensure that generations to come will be able to enjoy the outdoors as I did when I was kid.

How did your studies at Stetson Law prepare you for a career in environmental law?

Stetson prepared me for a career in environmental law by offering a wide variety of classes and internships while also providing opportunities to engage with the local community. Having a solid grasp on writing is one of the most important lawyering skills, and Stetson’s legal writing program definitely goes above and beyond to prepare its students. Beyond that, Stetson places high importance on real life skills classes, such as Trial Advocacy and Environmental Practice, which instill both tricks of the trade as well as confidence in a courtroom setting.

What sets Stetson’s environmental law program apart?

Stetson’s environmental law program is set apart by close-knit relationships that are able to bring learning outside of the classroom. Faculty members were able to share their expertise on wetlands for example, by taking their students out in the field instead of lecturing in a classroom. The Stetson environmental law program understands that a successful career in environmental law requires knowledge of both the law and science and ensured that every student left with the proper education. In my wetlands seminar class, faculty supplemented case law with a guest science lecturer to ensure a well-rounded education.

How did you benefit from your internship/externship experiences?

I participated in the Local Government Clinic and an internship at NOAA Southeastern. Both of these experiences taught me more about the practice of law than any classroom setting could. I was able to network with people in my desired profession while also honing in my legal research and writing skills. My internship at NOAA helped solidify my desire to practice environmental law and led me to work on ocean issues in particular. I would not be where I am today without those experiences.

How did the environmental law faculty members act as mentors for you?

Faculty at Stetson truly put their students first and set them up for success. I can’t tell you how often I took advantage of the open door culture and offers to write recommendations. I have to say my top two favorite experiences with environmental law faculty members include when I got to speak alongside Professor Long at the St. Petersburg March Against Monsanto and of course, seeing Professor Gardner singing at one of our Earth Day events.

What opportunities were available to you to contribute legal scholarship on environmental law?

As home to the Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy, Stetson has many opportunities to get students directly involved in legal scholarship. I participated on the journal as a student editor and was also able to contribute ideas and articles to the journal. Further, there are great seminar classes offered in the environmental law program that give you the freedom to explore your scholarly interests while writing a publishable paper in your chosen sector of environmental law.

How did your participation in student groups support your studies and your overall law school experience?

I participated in the Environmental Law Society as both events coordinator and president and was also a student editor for the Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy. Being in these groups with like-minded people greatly contributed to my overall law school experience. Planning Stetson’s Earth Day events taught me the importance of organization, leadership, and the power of advocacy. The lessons I learned by working with different types of personalities and vendors have become a part of my daily life, and I am confident in my ability to get things done and also to get along with different people in my profession. I highly recommend getting involved in student groups to help supplement the academic skills Stetson teaches you.

Can you offer one tip to prospective students?

Never let an opportunity slip by, even if you don’t think it’s what you need or want at the time — you never know what will end up shaping the trajectory of your career and life.