July 2015 Alumni Highlight

Emily CollinsEmily A. Collins (‘04)

The winner of Pace’s 2014 Nicholas A. Robinson Award for Alumni Achievement is not one to rest on her laurels.  Emily Collins received her J.D. from Pace in 2004 and has been seizing opportunities to build her environmental legal career ever since.  Case in point: When asked how she got her current job as Executive Director and Managing Attorney at Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, she replies simply, “I founded the organization.”

Fair Shake is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Akron, Ohio.  It is designed to be both a law firm for modest means clients with environmental and community health needs and a residency program that incubates practitioners into their own modest means practices.  At Fair Shake, Emily supervises client matters, mentors and teaches Resident Attorneys in practice skills and entrepreneurship, and is responsible for the overall health and sustainability of the organization.  “I always feel most proud when one of our young attorneys feels like they have accomplished something because we put our belief and confidence behind them,” says Emily.

Before founding Fair Shake, Emily worked as a student attorney in the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, an Assistant Public Interest Counsel at the Office of Public Interest Counsel in the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and a clinical professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law where she directed the Environmental Law Clinic.  Looking back on her time at Pace, Emily reports that the thing that best prepared her to practice was the Environmental Skills class and its focus on statutory interpretation and methods of interpretation.  “I hear Professor Miller asking me, ‘What does the statute say?’ every single time that I begin looking into working through an environmental legal question,” she half jokes.

Nicholas A. Robinson with Emily Collins, Award winner for Nicholas A. Robinson Award for Alumni AchievementReflecting her proactive, entrepreneurial spirit, Emily encourages current Pace Law students and graduates to seek out and create opportunities for themselves.  “In all likelihood, you're already a better practitioner than the vast majority of attorneys out there,” she says.  “Be yourself, look for opportunities to do something that you find fulfilling, and if you see something in the profession that you think is a problem, it probably is.  Please do something about it.”

Although Emily has spent time working in New York and Texas, she’s most at home in the area of our country where Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia meet, the area that she now serves with Fair Shake.  “I think that the hills and deciduous forests of the Appalachian plateau are the most beautiful in the country,” she says.  While she spends much of her time working in Pittsburgh, she enjoys trail running and cycling in and around the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Emily and her wife have four dogs and two goats in Stow, Ohio and also spend time helping her mom and step-dad take care of a 300-acre farm where they raise Appaloosas.