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Friedmann, '12: Pro-Production, Pro-Sustainability

Joey Friedmann

The law firm Rhine Ernest was hoping to hire Joey Friedmann, '12. He was interested but not completely sold on the idea of living in the southern Indiana city of Evansville. But then they took him 500 feet underground in a coal mine, into pitch darkness.

He was sold.

Friedmann is something of an anomaly in the world of environmental law: He puts himself "just right of center" on the conservative side of the spectrum and believes coal and other energy sources don't have to be banned immediately (causing his Law School roommates to jokingly call him "the oil baron").

"I'm pro-production, and I think production can be done in a way that is sustainable. We're a country that relies on coal. We can't just flip a switch and go to solar power," says Friedmann.

Another thing that separates him from many of his peers: He earned a master's degree in geology while also pursuing his law degree, a rare dual-degree combination.

Friedmann's love of and appreciation for geology and the environment stemmed largely from rock climbing, which he began doing at age 9. Friedmann added geology to his curriculum after his first semester of law school, when he knew that he wanted to be a lawyer but also wanted to stay close to the land. "I found myself missing the rocks."

At Rhine Ernest, he will remain close to the rocks. He will help the natural-resources-focused firm's clients in the mineral, oil, and gas industries, including working on issues such as the regulatory requirements for disposal of mining waste and carbon capture projects.

In the job he will draw not only from his experience as a student but also from previous jobs. In the summer of 2010, as a summer fellow with the Department of the Interior, he drafted briefs and reports about the BP oil spill and reviewed renewable energy projects in California. Prior to law school, he worked in London at a corporate finance house that specialized in the junior mining and exploration sector. In that job, he visited gold and other mines in Slovakia, Canada, and Turkey.

All along the way, he has found time to take rock-climbing expeditions. In his limited down-time at Michigan Law, Friedmann founded MLaw Rocks, which makes regular visits to a local climbing gym, and informal fall or spring break trips to the Red River Gorge.

"It's a great sport for law students. Law school is so all-consuming, but rock climbing makes you focus on every movement you're making and forces you to free your mind from your studies, if only for that moment on the wall. You still have to think creatively and problem solve; it's kind of like physical chess."

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