Chicago Environmental and Energy Law Clinic

Program in Environmental and Energy Law


IIT Chicago-Kent, in partnership with the Chicago Legal Clinic, sponsors the Chicago Environmental Law Clinic. The mission of the Chicago Environmental Law Clinic is to enable people who are confronting urban environmental problems to have equal access to environmental justice. The clinic serves people who, but for the clinic, would be unrepresented in environmental matters that directly affect the health, safety and welfare of their families and communities. The clinic does not impose an environmental agenda or ideology on its clients, but rather provides legal education, advocacy and volunteer services in response to community-directed concerns.


In order to accomplish its mission, the Environmental Law Clinic provides:

  1. legal education and advocacy services to people confronting urban environmental problems in the Chicago area
  2. the highest quality educational experience to environmental law students through actual service to people in need
  3. a professionally rewarding opportunity for environmental attorneys and professionals to do "pro bono publico"
  4. the means for recurrent policy issues in urban environmental cases to be articulated and advanced


The Chicago Legal Clinic has provided legal education, advocacy and volunteer services in Chicago since 1981 and, in 1989, initiated one of the first full-time environmental poverty law programs in the nation. For 10 years, Chicago Legal Clinic Environmental Law Program operated from a neighborhood office in southeast Chicago. In 1999, the Environmental Law Program moved downtown to add a clinical component by collaborating with Chicago-Kent. The creation of the Chicago Environmental Law Clinic enables an exponential increase in environmental legal services to clients, while also providing students with a clinical service learning experience. The clinic also enables environmental professionals to volunteer their services in public interest environmental cases, and offers new opportunities to explore the policy implications found in environmental cases that arise in urban settings.


The Environmental Law Clinic is directed by Keith Harley. Keith initiated the Chicago Legal Clinic's Environmental Law Program in 1989, shortly after graduating from Chicago-Kent. Keith has represented clients in local, state and federal environmental actions for more than 20 years. He recently completed his fourth year as chair of the Chicago Bar Association's Environmental Law Committee. Keith is joined by attorney Bess Schenkier, who has more than 25 years' experience practicing environmental law. The clinic is supported by experienced environmental attorneys. These attorneys volunteer their services on specific cases to ensure clients are receiving the highest quality legal services and students are receiving the highest quality learning experiences. John Watson, a partner at Baker & McKenzie and a 1988 graduate of Chicago-Kent, chairs an advisory committee for the Environmental Law Clinic.


The Environmental Law Clinic is located in a 4,000-square-foot office in suite 750 at 211 W. Wacker Drive, a LEED Silver-certified building. In order to support environmentally beneficial initiatives, The Environmental Law Clinic has sublet space to Illinois Wind Energy, which developed the first utility scale wind farm in Illinois; the Friends of the Forest Preserves; and the Healthy Schools Campaign, a coalition of more than 70 organizations committed to providing environmentally safe schools for Illinois children.

Case Types

It is common for the clinic to represent clients in environmental rulemaking, permitting, site remediation, and enforcement cases on the local, state and federal level. The clinic represents clients under every major federal and state environmental statute. The clinic's representation activities range from providing advice and consultation, to conducting negotiations, to representing clients in administrative, court and appellate actions. In keeping with the pragmatism that often characterizes its clients, the clinic often collaborates with public interest attorneys, regulators and private interests to resolve community-based environmental problems as efficiently as possible.