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University of California, Davis
School of Law


Before entering law school, Holly Doremus conducted basic research on the metabolic pathways of plants. She enjoyed the puzzle-solving aspect of scientific research, but came to see it as an intellectual game, remote from the public policy issues of the day. Environmental law, Doremus finds, offers the same sort of intellectual stimulation as science, with a more direct connection to the policy-making arena. Environmental law introduces students to the intricacies of detailed statutory and regulatory analysis and interpretation. It requires them to consider how data and concepts from very different fields, such as the physical and biological sciences, can or should be integrated into the legal structure. In addition, it illustrates the difficulties inherent in translating vague general principles into specific rules. Nearly everyone agrees that clean air and water are worthy goals. Achieving consensus on the details, such as who should set the standards, the appropriate basis for those standards, and who should pay the costs, is much tougher. Confronting these difficult policy issues helps students understand, explain, and justify their own views on controversial topics.