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Handy, '09: Business and Environmental Concerns Must Coexist Peacefully

Alicia Handy

Growing up, Alicia Handy, '09, was an outdoorsy girl who played in the dirt and loved summer camp. She saw the movie Twister, and she knew she wanted to be a storm chaser. Meteorology studies as an undergrad followed, but so did this realization:

"I didn't want to be a PhD student, and I didn't want to live in Oklahoma chasing tornadoes," she says. "Environmental law was a natural transition."

As a student at Michigan Law, she participated in the Geneva Program, through which she worked at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development. That work helped her to understand the link between the environment and international trade, a field she knew nothing about. She also interned at the Center for International Environmental Law and the EPA.

For much of her time in law school, she envisioned working for the government or, perhaps, a nongovernmental organization upon graduation.

But following what turned out to be a great summer associate experience at a law firm, she thought that working at a firm would allow her to practice environmental law with the ability to impact companies' behavior from within. She also relished the chance to explore other areas of the law and to work on litigation—opportunities that working at a firm afforded her.

Now, practicing in the environmental group at WilmerHale's Washington, D.C., office, she also works with the litigation team.

"I did not envision a life at a law firm at all, and I did not envision a life as a potential litigator, but I love it. I'm glad I ended up at a firm that had several options," she says.

Her practice focuses on federal, state, and local regulatory compliance counseling and litigation, including matters involving the Oil Pollution Act and fracking. She also represents corporate clients on internal, congressional, and executive agency inquiries and investigations.

She has seen positive impacts of working with clients on environmental issues, which gives her hope for the success of sustainability efforts in the future.

She just hopes the country at large will become more open to environmental regulation.

"It's a little disheartening that it's not more appreciated; I would love if people started to see the importance of the health of our environment. You'd like to think it won't have to get back to rivers starting on fire again for people to realize the importance in having environmental regulations."

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