Harvard Law School receives $15 million to launch Emmett Environmental Law Center

A gift by alumnus Dan Emmett ’64 and the Emmett Foundation will bolster the work of the law school’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic and Environmental and Energy Law Program, while also creating a new, first-of-its-kind environmental law moot court


A new $15 million gift will establish the Emmett Environmental Law Center at Harvard Law School, further enhance the school’s longstanding environmental law program and legal clinic, and create a first-of-its-kind environmental moot court institute.

“We could not be more grateful to Dan Emmett for this gift and his longtime support for the study, teaching, and practice of environmental law at Harvard Law School,” said Interim Dean John C.P. Goldberg, the Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence. “Dan’s generosity and commitment to Harvard Law and to making it possible for students, professors, and practitioners to thrive here and as they work in the field is a tribute both to his character and his commitment to our community.”

The generous support from Harvard Law alumnus Dan Emmett ’64, chairman of Douglas Emmett, a real estate investment trust, is a “gamechanger,” said Jody Freeman LL.M ’91 S.J.D. ’95, the Archibald Cox Professor of Law and founding director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard. Freeman also established the Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.

“Dan’s gift is critical to creating a legacy program here at Harvard Law School that will, in perpetuity, support our supremely talented team of staff attorneys, fellows, and other experts who deliver such huge benefits to our students and make such a significant difference in the world,” she said.

Praising Freeman’s leadership, Emmett said that he was pleased to build on his previous gifts to the program and clinic.

“I am thrilled that this new center will advance the important work happening at Harvard in environmental law, including in teaching, research, and support for critical environmental rules and regulations,” he said. “I am excited for the opportunities this will provide to students and future leaders in law, government, business, and more. And I am certain the center will have a positive impact on the law and on our environment for generations to come.”

The study of environmental law at Harvard includes a robust slate of academic courses, a legal clinic where students receive hands-on practice experience, and a prolific research program. The Emmett gift will bolster these initiatives individually and together through the creation of the Emmett Environmental Law Center, supporting the addition of new faculty and staff attorneys, funding for student field work and on-campus convenings, and much more.

The goal, says Freeman, is to educate students and develop durable legal strategies to address the nation’s biggest environmental challenges, including threats to the air, water, wilderness, climate, and public health.

“The gift will enable the center to expand upon Harvard Law’s groundbreaking work in the field, create greater capacity to influence environmental, climate, and energy law and policy, and train students who will work in every branch of government and across the private and non-profit sectors, to spur greater environmental protection and sustainability for generations to come,” says Freeman.

Emmett’s gift will also establish the country’s first environmental moot court institute, which will enable attorneys to practice and develop their arguments in front of Harvard’s world-class environmental law experts. While venues exist to rehearse arguing before the United States Supreme Court, the Harvard Law initiative will be the only moot court focused exclusively on environmental law, particularly litigation at the federal district court and appellate court levels.

The moot court institute will also provide current Harvard Law students with new opportunities to help prepare for, observe, and provide feedback to expert practitioners as they practice their arguments. In addition to learning more about complex environmental cases and litigation strategy, the moot court also will give students the chance to connect with a broad network of legal practitioners.

“It’s imperative to provide an opportunity to moot cases early in the process, to be sure they are on the strongest possible footing as they make their way through the courts,” says Freeman. “We think we will be providing a real service for the litigants who argue important environmental, energy, and climate cases.”

Additionally, the Emmett gift will underwrite a fund for student field work and support important convenings to bring stakeholders together to work on the most challenging climate, energy, and environmental problems. It will also facilitate deeper connections between the Emmett Center and other schools and institutions across Harvard University, including Harvard Business and Kennedy Schools, and the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability.

Freeman says the gift builds on Emmett’s prior foundational support for environmental law at Harvard. “Dan has been with us since the beginning and supported our vision to develop the finest environmental law program in the world and produce the next generation of environmental lawyers and leaders,” she says.

Richard Lazarus ’79, the Charles Stebbins Fairchild Professor of Law at Harvard University, said that legal education is critically important to environmental law’s success. “For environmental law to work, it must persist and adapt over the long term to ever-changing circumstances,” he said. “Only with the introduction into the legal profession of succeeding generations of the most talented and creative environmental lawyers can that happen.”