Faculty Profile: Associate Professor Seema Kakade

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Associate Professor Seema Kakade is on a mission to strengthen laws protecting the environment and address issues of environmental justice. For students in her Environmental Law Clinic, that means developing skills in a range of arenas as they train to be environmental advocates.  

From helping community groups file public comments on the placement of a new rail line, to providing litigation support to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to conducting state comparative research for non-profits advancing legislation before the Maryland General Assembly, clinic students learn ways lawyering can make a difference. “We work across all three branches of government, and at the local, state, and federal level,” says Kakade, “because that is really what it takes to advance environmental protection and advocacy.” 

Kakade should know. Before joining Maryland Carey Law in 2017, she was a regulation and enforcement attorney with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. Prior to her federal government practice, she worked as co-director of the India Program at the Environmental Law Institute and as a litigator at a private firm.  

Kakade is also a leading scholar in the environmental law space. Her groundbreaking research focuses on the implementation and enforcement of environmental regulations, especially in the areas of air pollution, climate change, and energy. She has published in multiple academic journals, including the Harvard Environmental Law Review, NYU Environmental Law Journal, and Ecology Law Quarterly. Kakade’s current work explores the movement to develop community monitoring as a useful tool in environmental enforcement.  

Students in the clinic rave about the experience. “I learned so much in the Environmental Law Clinic, and I truly feel like it helped me prepare for a job in the real world.” says Johanna Adashek ’22, who is president of the Maryland Public Interest Law Project and a staff editor on the Maryland Journal of International Law 

Part of that preparation happens as Kakade builds strong relationships with students through advice sessions and required one-on-one meetings. “Not only is she always available to discuss questions and review client matters,” adds Adashek, “but she also reaches out to students to make sure we understand the material and are prepared for whatever client meeting, filing, or submission we have next.”  

Kakade’s mentorship also extends to helping students with career building and counseling. “I spend a lot of time with individual students understanding who they are,” she says, “and helping them identify what they like, what they don’t like, where their skills and strengths and weaknesses are, and matching them to eventual employment.” 

In recognition of the diverse opportunities and benefits to students, the clinic received the American Bar Association’s “best student environmental program” award in 2018. 

A Minnesota native, Kakade grew up with a global perspective thanks to frequent, extended visits to her parents’ hometown in western India. The experience helped shape her drive to address equity and justice issues that come up in environmental law, as revealed in the cases the clinic takes, which focus on environmental justice matters in the mid-Atlantic region and in developing countries.  

Additionally, Kakade is working to increase representation among environmental lawyers and in the academy. Last year, she was instrumental in establishing a diversity initiative within the Environmental Law Program, which offers scholarships and summer grants to students from diverse backgrounds to study environmental law and do public interest work in the environmental law field. The program is funded by the Environmental Integrity Project. 

Kakade holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a JD from the George Washington University Law School. She is the recipient of the 2019 Environmental Law Institute’s “Futures Award” and is a fellow with the American College of Environmental Law. She is also an active board and advisory council member for numerous non-profit organizations including, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Center for Transnational Environmental Accountability, the Greenfield Multistate Trust, and the Chesapeake Legal Alliance. 

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