Internship Experience: Learning From the Ground Up

By Rachel Procaccini

Living in the state of North Carolina — home of the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains, a coastline over 300 miles long and approximately 50,000 farms in operation — it is important, for both North Carolina’s economic stability and for the future health of North Carolina’s natural landscape, to utilize the land, water and natural resources, all the while conserving, replanting and replenishing the resources we use.

Upon completion of my first year of law school at the University of North Carolina School of Law, I spent my summer serving as a legal intern with the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). DEQ’s OGC attorneys appreciate that farmers, fishermen, hunters and educators depend on the use of the environment for their economic livelihood and for their recreational and educational enjoyment of the state’s natural resources. DEQ’s OGC attorneys utilize the laws and regulations of the state to ensure that commercial, recreational and educational interests can reap the benefits of the environment while still conserving those resources for their continuous bounty.

DEQ’s OGC comprises 11 attorneys with expertise ranging from hazardous waste to coastal, water and air law. The DEQ attorneys are of high caliber with diverse legal backgrounds. General Counsel Sam Hayes, Wake Forest Law alumnus, previously worked with Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C. for 16 years. Deputy General Counsel Craig Bromby, UNC Law alumnus, retired from Hunton & Williams after 25 years. Deputy General Counsel Andrew Norton, Campbell Law alumnus, previously worked with Anderson Jones and served as law clerk to the general counsel for a former N.C. Speaker of the House. These lawyers, who supervise the other lawyers of the OGC, are committed to their jobs, work collaboratively to solve problems, and, notwithstanding the challenges that arise, truly enjoy their jobs.

During my internship, I was assigned projects from each OGC attorney based upon their specialized practice area, allowing me to gain exposure to a variety of environmental law areas. For example, working with DEQ OGC coastal lawyer, Christy Goebel, I assisted the Division of Coastal Management and Marine Fisheries with researching and writing an amicus curiae brief that was submitted to the North Carolina Supreme Court regarding a coastal public trust issue. I also attended a Coastal Resource Commission meeting in Beaufort, N.C., where Ms. Goebel provided insight to the commission to enable its decision-making of variance permits. Working with Craig Bromby, who focuses on water law, I learned about North Carolina’s regulations on water quality, water resources, drinking water and the rules surrounding wetlands. Additionally, I wrote legal memoranda on issues ranging from fishing regulations, to employment and privacy law, to the process entities go through to recharge the soil of a plot of land that was once deemed as a hazardous site, so it can be permitted for construction and utilized for beneficial use.

I highly recommend to law students with an interest in environmental law that they consider an internship position with the DEQ’s Office of General Counsel. Not only does it provide the opportunity to work with highly skilled and experienced attorneys, it is an invaluable opportunity to develop inspiring mentorship relationships and help facilitate the success and well-being of the state of North Carolina. It was a distinct privilege and pleasure to be associated with such a fine group of professionals.