My Farewell to UCLA

Leaving UCLA to join Earthjustice is exciting, and bittersweet, for me

This will be my final Legal Planet post as a member of the UCLA faculty. After 20 wonderful years at UCLA School of Law, directing our Environmental Law Center and Wells Clinic and then co-directing our Emmett Institute with Cara Horowitz, I’m leaving to join Earthjustice as the managing attorney of the organization’s California Regional Office. I’ll be leading a team of about two dozen litigators and other advocates, working on a wide range of environmental issues.

This move is both very exciting, and also bittersweet, for me. Earthjustice is a leader in environmental advocacy, and I’ve seen firsthand how great their work is and how much of an impact it has. The team I’ll be working with is amazing; there are few if any other jobs that would tempt me to leave UCLA. And on the other side of the coin, I’ll deeply miss UCLA. I’ve been very fortunate to work with such wonderful colleagues here, as well as other academic colleagues and various other partners, over the years. Our program has grown in size, in stature, and in influence, and serves students and the broader community better than ever before.

When I started at UCLA, my job–funded with a generous gift from the now-closed Evan Frankel Foundation–was relatively modest: I was here to support our students, to plan and host symposia, to build our reputation through outside engagement, and to assist Ann Carlson in teaching and supervising our environmental law clinic. Within two years, everything looked different: I was co-directing the clinic, teaching Natural Resources Law, and working on new research projects. And my job grew from there: we hosted the first-ever meeting of environmental law programs, with directors of two dozen programs gathering here at UCLA, we got more and more interested students, and I was teaching several different classes.

In the mid-2000s, climate change became a subject of legal interest, with new greenhouse gas regulation and new initiatives in climate adaptation. Ann and I taught a seminar in climate change law when the topic was just starting to emerge, and through her initiative (along with then Dean Mike Schill), and with a significant gift from Dan and Rae Emmett, we launched the Emmett Institute with the hiring of my wonderful colleague Cara Horowitz. We were the first US law school-based center focused on climate change. I’m proud we were at the cutting edge in 2008. And we’ve just continued to grow in the almost 15 years since, as other centers have emerged at dozens of schools.

I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned here, and for colleagues like my mentor (and founding faculty director of the Emmett Institute) Ann Carlson;  our faculty director Ted Parson and faculty co-directors William Boyd and Alex Wang; our deputy director Julia Stein; our other environmental faculty Tim Malloy, Jonathan Zasloff, and Jim Salzman, plus Mary Nichols, Jason Gray, and our program manager Heather Morphew and communications director Evan George; and most of all my partner in everything here Cara Horowitz. I know I’m leaving the Emmett Institute in good hands, with Cara now becoming sole executive director. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate, and I’ll greatly miss our partnership.

And I’d be remiss not to mention here how much I’ve valued the collaboration we’ve had with Berkeley Law (and with Rick Frank at UC Davis King Hall) on here and in other contexts.

What I will miss the most about UCLA Law, and our environmental program in particular, is engagement with students and alumni. The opportunity to get to know students and new lawyers, and to help them realize their potential as they launch their careers and manifest their talents, is truly a gift. Seeing so many of our former students become leaders in environmental law and policy, addressing the most formidable challenges our society is facing, has been the real reward of this work.

I look forward to my next chapter, and the Emmett Institute’s.

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About Sean

Sean B. Hecht is the Co-Executive Director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Evan Frankel Professor of Policy and Practice, and Co-Director o…

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