Alumni and Careers

Environmental law offers exciting career opportunities for University of Richmond School of Law graduates. University graduates hold leadership positions in government, the private sector, and advocacy groups-working in Virginia and around the United States.

The field is vast and continues to grow. There is a demand for lawyers with environmental expertise and the know-how to permit (or oppose) projects, litigate cases in court, and advise clients on the environmental implications of their decisions. Energy and environmental law issues are featured in front-page news stories, and new environmental leaders are becoming increasingly sought-after in law, business, and government sectors.

Our students go into practice in three major sectors:

  • Non-profit:-representing national, regional, and local environmental organizations involved in litigation, lobbying, educational, or policy work.
  • Private-working for private law firms to help clients comply with environmental laws and regulations and advising clients on the environmental implications of business transactions. Private sector attorneys also serve as in-house environmental counsel for companies.
  • Government-advising local, state, and federal agencies on how to implement legislation, regulate private sector activities, and comply with their own obligations in accordance with environmental laws.

We have an extensive alumni network and an outstanding career development office that helps students find jobs during school and after graduation. See below for profiles of just a few of our graduates.

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  • Kerry Hutcherson, L’07

    Kerry HutchersonKerry Hutcherson, L’07, serves as Staff Counsel to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF), a state agency established by the General Assembly in 1966 to promote land conservation. VOF accomplishes its purpose primarily through conservation easements, permanently restricting certain intensive land uses in order to preserve natural, scenic, historic, scientific, recreational, and open-space resources. VOF currently holds over 3,200 easements that conserve over 600,000 acres of land throughout the commonwealth.

    As Staff Counsel, Hutcherson works in tandem with attorneys in the Office of the Attorney General to provide legal advice and services to VOF. Hutcherson focuses on the stewardship component of VOF’s work, including drafting legal instruments, advising on easement enforcement matters, and communicating with landowners’ attorneys.

    Hutcherson earned both a J.D. and Master of Urban and Regional Planning as part of a dual degree program with Virginia Commonwealth University. Courses in urban planning, property, tax, local government, land use, wills and trusts, environmental law, corporations, and contracts laid the foundation for Hutcherson’s work at VOF. Hutcherson also credits Richmond Law’s Clinical Placement Program for teaching him practical skills during his placement at The Nature Conservancy.

  • Michelle Welch, L’99

    Michelle WelchVirginia Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch, L’99, has been prosecuting animal cruelty cases on behalf of the commonwealth since 2000. She is a nationally recognized expert on animal law, frequently advising law enforcement authorities and serving as special prosecutor in state and federal animal law cases. Welch also trains prosecutors, animal control, and law enforcement officers on animal law issues in the commonwealth of Virginia. In 2011, she received the Animal Welfare Institute’s Albert Schweitzer Medal for outstanding achievement in the advancement of animal welfare.

    As a Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Richmond, Welch was in charge of prosecuting cases of animal abuse and dogfighting. She testified before a congressional caucus examining animal law enforcement and state and federal cooperation in animal law matters. Welch currently serves as senior faculty for the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), co-chair of the APA’s Animal Law Curriculum Advisory Committee, and adjunct faculty at Richmond Law.

    Welch credits the University of Richmond School of Law with providing her unfettered access to great faculty who provided real-world perspective. She explained that her upper-level criminal law classes were taught by the "best and the brightest of the Richmond Criminal Bar [Association]. That access to quality criminal attorneys really affored me a unique perspective about how to fashion my career in public service, and it is what sets UR apart from other schools."

  • Alicia Zatcoff, L’94

    Alicia Zatcoff

    Alicia Zatcoff, L’94, has over 20 years of experience driving constructive change at the systems level in local government. She was appointed as the City’s first Sustainability Manager in 2010. In this role, she developed and leads the city’s climate action program.

    She is championing RVAgreen 2050. It is the city’s equity-centered, integrated, climate mitigation and adaptation initiative to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 (40% by 2030) and enhance the community’s capacity to adapt to Richmond’s climate impacts of extreme heat and extreme precipitation. Key elements include reducing energy use, increasing renewable energy capacity, decreasing vehicle miles traveled, increasing alternative modes of transportation, reducing waste by increasing recycling and composting, and enhancing resilience by reducing the urban heat island.

    Zatcoff credits the University of Richmond School of Law for teaching her invaluable skills she uses on a regular basis to succeed in her role. "My years at the University of Richmond provided a strong foundation for the work I do. I use the research, critical thinking and problem solving skills I learned at the School of Law every day."

  • Nikki Rovner, L’94

    Nikki Rovner headshot

    After graduation from Richmond Law, Nikki Rovner worked as an intern in the environmental law section of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office before landing a position as a staff attorney for the Division of Legislative Services’ Natural Resources Team.

    With the Division of Legislative Services, “you learn state law incredibly well by writing it,” said Rovner. “But you’re not an advocate. I knew I wanted to be an advocate eventually.” That desire drew her to a newly created role of Director of Government Relations for the Nature Conservancy. From there, she spent four years as Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources for Governor Tim Kaine before returning to the Nature Conservancy in 2010. Her responsibilities within the organization have grown, and she is now Associate State Director.

    At the Nature Conservancy, Rovner’s work focuses on building partnerships with government agencies and advocating for policy priorities. Her role is a non-partisan one – “but you can’t just ignore politics and pretend it doesn’t exist, because you won’t be an effective advocate,” explained Rovner. “Trying to balance that out is challenging.” But the challenge is worth the reward for Rovner: “I like being the voice of conservation in the policy-making realm,” she said. “When you’re working with legislators, you’re working with people that make decisions that have a real effect on the environment.”