The John Marshall Law School Offers New Certificate in Sustainability Law

By Matt Baker

The John Marshall Law School

Founded in 1899 and ABA-accredited for sixty years, the John Marshall Law School (JMLS) is perhaps Chicago’s best-known independent law school, having produced many notable jurists, including Timothy C. Evans, the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and the current White House Chief Of Staff, Bill Daley.

The school offers JD and other graduate degrees in a variety of curricula, such as property law, trial advocacy and legal writing; U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the institution sixth in the nation in this latter category. Starting in January 2012, JMLS will now also offer a new JD Certificate in Sustainability Law through its Center for Real Estate Law.

“Sustainable development […] meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” said Celeste Hammond, director of the Center for Real Estate Law at JMLS. “Only a small number of lawyers will specialize in sustainability law, but most business or commercial real estate lawyers need to know about the implications and consequences that sustainability, the green building movement and climate change will have on the real estate industry.”

The new program, which is a response to increased demand from students and employers alike, allows law students to concentrate on the emerging, interdisciplinary area of sustainability and its increasing importance in real estate, transactional and regulatory work. “The large firms are seeking to do more in-house training of their attorneys in this area, encouraging them to take the LEED AP test, for example,” said Hammond.

JMLS already offers courses in sustainability law to the more advanced Master of Laws (LLM) and Master of Science (MS) degree candidates. “All of our programs run the gamut from taking students who are studying law for first time to those who are already attorneys to those who are not attorneys but want to know more about legal risk in commercial real estate transactions,” said Hammond.

Starting about five years ago, both students and professors discovered on their site visits to corporate counsel offices in real estate and development firms that sustainability was a growing concern. Starting in 2009, JMLS began offering new courses, including historic preservation and energy law, for LLM and MS degrees.

The new JD sustainability certificate is an outgrowth of the Center for Real Estate’s overall sustainability initiative. Aimed not at established attorneys and professionals but at law students, the program charts the landscape for those who are interested in possibly specializing in sustainability law.

Many 1Ls come to JMLS with a background or special interest in real estate, engineering and architecture. Mostly due to the efforts of this last group, JMLS now hosts a student chapter of the USGBC. These student chapters, a relatively new endeavor of the USGBC, help students integrate sustainability themes into their coursework as well as advocate for sustainable practices and policies at their institutions.

The new sustainability certificate curriculum consists of required courses in energy law, environmental law, local government law, real estate transactions, sustainability in modern real estate transactions and a sampling of electives in real estate, environmental and government regulation law. In order to earn this certificate, candidates must complete a minimum of 25 credits in the sustainability curriculum, with 13 required credits and 12 elective credits.

For example, next spring, Fred Bosselman, Professor Emeritus at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and Mark Burkland, a Partner with Holland & Knight LLP, will teach a seminar titled Energy Development Projects—Three Actual Case Studies. That course is open to J.D. students as well as attorneys and other professionals who wish to learn about energy law in the context of real estate projects.

Sustainability, such as water preservation, has also permeated other parts of the school. The Braun Lecture and Symposium—an annual lecture at JMLS that each year discusses a different topic, such as the death penalty or the history of activism—will host a conference next year on implementation of the Great Lakes Compact, the multi-state, legally-binding agreement regarding water management in the Great Lakes Basin.

“The law school decided that the topic of water diversion out of the Great Lakes was important enough,” said Hammond. “The Great Lakes Compact is now about two years old and the question now is what importance will it have? Is it being enforced?” The next Braun Lecture is scheduled for March 28th, 2011.

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