Environmental Justice

UCLA Law faculty and students contribute to protections for communities disproportionately affected by environmental harms

The Emmett Institute provides students opportunities to study and advance solutions to environmental justice challenges in Los Angeles, California, and across the country. Through course work, experiential learning, externships, and mentoring, UCLA Law students earn valuable experience and skills alongside leading scholars and practitioners.

Students in our environmental law programs prepare for environmental justice careers while contributing to protections for communities disproportionately affected by climate change, air and water pollution, and other environmental harms.


UCLA Law offers several paths for formal study of environmental justice issues, including through our Environmental Justice Law seminar. Other courses with substantial content in environmental justice law include Environmental Law, Public Natural Resources Law, Climate Change Law and Policy, California Environmental Law, Ocean and Coastal Law, and our clinical courses. A new one-unit course offered in Spring 2021 as part of UCLA Law’s Law Through Scholarship electives for first-year students introduces environmental justice issues.

Since its inception over 25 years ago, the Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic has provided students with hands-on training in environmental lawyering, with projects related to urban oil drilling, landfills and waste management, water quality, and other environmental justice issues. UCLA Law’s renowned Critical Race Studies program offers students unparalleled opportunities for rigorous study of the intersection of race and the law, with courses that complement the Emmett Institute’s environmental law curriculum.

Public Service and Clinical Projects

Emmett Institute faculty, often in collaboration with students and as part of our clinical program, have filed amicus briefs and comment letters alongside and on behalf of environmental justice communities, and have published policy papers analyzing environmental justice issues. Our clients and partners have included community-based groups like East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Communities for a Better Environment, California Communities Against Toxics, Comite Civico Del Valle, the STAND-LA anti-oil drilling coalition, and Native American advocacy groups like Wishtoyo Foundation and Black Mesa Trust, among other organizations focused on environmental justice.

Through our clinic, students have contributed to high-profile campaigns for environmental justice, including:

In addition to our clinical work, the Emmett Institute hosts public events and symposia with speakers focused on environmental justice issues, including our spring 2021 symposium, Environmental Justice in the United States: Taking Stock under President Biden. Our faculty frequently comment on environmental justice issues in local and national media.

Emmett Institute faculty are expanding our institutional work on environmental justice and improving the representation of environmental justice leaders and issues in legal organizations where our faculty serve as board members, including the California Lawyers Association, Environmental Law Institute, and others.  

Career Development

Students seeking career opportunities in environmental justice benefit from faculty mentoring and connections to an extensive network of alumni working in this field, including at state and federal agencies and leading nonprofits. Emmett Institute funding for tuition scholarships and summer fellowships has also supported students pursuing environmental justice careers. 

In addition, the Emmett Institute and Environmental Law Society frequently invite alumni and environmental justice leaders at local, state, and national levels to discuss their careers and legal work with students. Our Environmental Law Resources and Career Guide includes profiles of alumni working on environmental justice issues and identifies resources for students pursuing scholarship funding, externships, and early career positions in environmental justice.

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