Alumni Profile: Joel Fedder
JOEL FEDDER ’58––GIVING BACK TO THE LAW SCHOOL AND THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT
Interview by Alexandria Millard (’11)
As the law school prepared to host the International Environmental Moot Court Competition in February 2010, we spoke with Joel Fedder ‘58, founder of the Fedder Environmental Fund, about his experience with environmental law and his contribution to the Environmental Law Program. The Fund has significantly enhanced our environmental law program, and it will enable us to host the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium in 2012, a week-long gathering of more than 200 environmental law professors from throughout the world. We are most grateful to Mr. Fedder for his generosity and his support of our program.
Q: How did you become interested in environmental law?
A: I have always been an outdoors person. When I was young, I hunted and fished, and I loved the environment. When I was in law school, environmental law courses were not available––I specialized in tax law and real estate. I spent 27 years practicing tax law, and also worked as an accountant. I actually became interested in environmental law through the Sierra Club. I joined them on a trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska––we camped for a week, sleeping on an icy reef in the ocean. After the trip, I was inspired to study ANWR wildlife and the Indian tribes in that region. I saw the importance of protecting subsistence livelihoods, which the drilling would destroy. I now study and give lectures on climate change.
Q: How did you conceive of the idea of the Fedder Environmental Fund?
A: I created the Fund to train young lawyers and encourage them to get into the environmental arena. This way, they can take on the bad guys––the polluters. I wanted to help attract the kind of people to the school who are keen to take advantage of those opportunities and make a difference. I also felt I owed something back to the law school. The school enabled me to build my career in law.
Q: What advice do you have for law students interested in environmental law?
A: I advise them to pursue their passions. Think about what makes you want to get up and hit a home run every day. For me, I wanted to go out and be my own person. Money is not the only thing in life––it is important to think about public service; your contribution to society. Incorporating these considerations in your work will lead to a very satisfying career. Some good places to look for employment are the state and federal government, as well as nongovernmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and Earth Justice. One last thing: remember that your passions may change, and be open to that. Try different things, find out where your interests lie and pursue them.