Sam Brown JD 2007 | Pace Law School

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Sam Brown JD 2007

Sam Brown (JD ’07) is one of a growing contingent of Pace alumni in the San Francisco Bay Area.  After working for seven years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in both California and Washington, DC, he recently joined Hunton & Williams’ Environmental Practice Group in San Francisco.  He also teaches environmental law at the University of San Francisco.

At Hunton & Williams, Sam focuses his practice on national and California-specific environmental and administrative law issues, spreading his time between San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.  He advises clients on all aspects of environmental law, including permitting, compliance, participation in rulemaking actions, administrative and civil enforcement defense, and associated litigation.  Highlighting the importance of civility and maintaining a good working relationship with opposing counsel, Sam found his current job after working across the table from Hunton attorneys when he was at EPA.  “Even though we were sometimes on opposite sides of an issue, I found the Hunton attorneys to be incredibly smart, experts in their fields and a pleasure to work with,” he says.

Not only did his time at EPA lead to his current job, but it also provided Sam with his proudest professional accomplishment to date.  Sam says this moment came in 2009 when he worked on an EPA Clean Water Act Section 404(c) “veto” – the first in almost twenty years.  (For those of us who need to brush up on our Clean Water Act sections, 404(c) authorizes EPA to restrict, deny, or withdraw the use of an area as a disposal site for dredged or fill material if the discharge will have unacceptable adverse effects on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas, wildlife, or recreational areas.)  As a result of Sam’s work, 67,000 acres of wetlands in the Mississippi River flood plain were protected and the decision was upheld by the District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sam credits Pace with giving him the practical experience he needed to succeed after graduation.  “There is no substitute for ‘learning by doing,’” he says.  “Whether it was working on real cases and being pushed by Professors Coplan and Estrin in the Environmental Litigation Clinic, researching and writing articles in the Land Use Law Center with Professors Nolon and Bacher, or working on memoranda in the Environmental Skills course with Professor Powers, I was continuously learning real world skills that were critical as soon as I started working for the EPA.  I felt better prepared to begin the practice of environmental and administrative law than many of my peers.”

So, what should Pace students take away from Sam’s story?  He advises current students to take advantage of every opportunity Pace has to offer and work hard – harder than they think they should or can.  “Now is the time to try new things, take risks, and be prepared (but not satisfied) to make mistakes or be denied an opportunity; keep putting yourself out there.”  As we can see from Sam’s experience, one key to “putting yourself out there” is networking, although he doesn’t favor that term for it.  “It’s about developing sincere personal relationships with your classmates, professors, colleagues, opposing counsel, regulators, and anyone else you meet in the area of law you want to practice.  It is an incredibly small world, all you have is your reputation, and the relationships you nurture will create opportunities down the road.”

Based on his glowing reviews of living and working in California, Sam would also encourage Pace students to look to the West Coast for employment.  He enjoys the excitement and challenges that go hand in hand with working in a place where cutting edge environmental legal issues converge, whether they be climate change mitigation and adaptation, hydraulic fracturing, the regulation of chemicals in consumer products, or innovative land use practices.  As an added bonus, Sam notes that California offers its hardworking attorneys some nice options for recreational activities as well.  “I can be skiing one day and playing beach volleyball the next,” he says.  Sam and his wife look forward to sharing their love of the environment and the San Francisco area with the baby boy they are expecting in March.