Stephanie Fairbanks is ready to practice law. Graduating this spring from the Sturm College of Law, she takes with her a wealth of hands-on experience. In the summer following her first year at Denver Law, Stephanie clerked for a District Court Judge in the 18th Judicial District of Colorado. An externship in the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office followed, next a stint in the Region 8 office of the EPA. She spent this past year as a student lawyer in the Environmental Law Clinic, where she had a hand in seven cases. Most were on the wildlife side, including a case currently before the Federal Appeals Court for the Third Circuit that challenges a hunting-based deer-control plan at Valley Forge Historical Park in Pennsylvania.
At Denver Law, Stephanie has learned to practice client-based law. The people involved in environmental cases, she says, “care so much about their cause. They are so passionate.” She sees a major difference between the two types of clients the Environmental Law Clinic represents. Friends of Animals, the Clinic’s client in the deer-control case, is an international animals rights advocacy group. “They have some resources,” Stephanie observes. “They know the issues and they understand the process.” It’s a different experience representing neighborhood groups, such as the people in north Denver trying to get rid of “Shingle Mountain,” a 30-foot high uncovered pile of discarded roofing materials. “I learned so much working with them,” Stephanie says. “It’s preparing for real practice when clients show up who are very concerned about what is bothering them, very knowledgeable about the facts, but not the law. They look to us for nearly everything.”
In August, Stephanie Fairbanks will begin work with the Public Defender’s Office. She notes that while environmental law involves much written advocacy, her position there will draw more on her oral advocacy skills, developed in Trial Advocacy courses at Denver Law. Still, she says, in some ways environmental law and public defender work are very similar. “In both you are helping people who otherwise might not get the legal help they need. And you are working with people who really care.”