CLA Celebrates 10 Years Of Defending The Bay
CLA Expands Capacity To Assist Bay Community with New Programs
It began in 2009, when attorneys Russ Stevenson and Ridgway Hall felt a pressing need in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Across the Bay’s six states and Washington, D.C., there were hundreds of nonprofit organizations working to restore and protect the Bay and its tributaries. Few, though, had the legal resources needed to challenge permit violations and hold the vast array of state, local, and federal agencies accountable to laws and regulations. What if those services could be provided pro bono by a network of attorneys volunteering their time to help? And so, with a dedicated core of volunteer lawyers, Chesapeake Legal Alliance was born.
10 years later, CLA has grown into a powerful network of over 300 attorneys — since 2013 alone, CLA attorneys have contributed more than $12 million in free legal services. This amount of pro bono legal services empowers Bay organizations and individuals in their efforts to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, its lands, rivers, streams and communities. Over the years, CLA services have grown, too. CLA offers corporate legal support for nonprofits, analysis and advice, education and training, and other services.
Now CLA is looking toward the next ten years by reorganizing its programs into three distinct service areas. We are continuing and expanding the Pro Bono Service program, and adding programs in Legal Training and Education and Legal Innovation. The new programs will be headed by two veteran CLA staff attorneys, Mary Clemmensen and Molly Brown.
Mary Clemmensen will lead in Legal Innovation. The program will identify gaps in legal research and policy analyses on issues relevant to Bay protection and conduct case development for strategically important cases and innovative legal strategies.
Molly Brown will head up the Community Legal Education program. She’ll be charged with producing legal trainings and guides for Bay advocates and partners, training volunteer attorneys in environmental law, and facilitating partnerships among Bay partners.
Hannah Brubach, who joined CLA in January through a partnership with Environmental Action Center, is now the staff attorney for the Pro Bono Services program. Her role is to recruit volunteer lawyers and match Bay communities’ needs with the appropriate legal services.
“After ten years, we’ve learned a lot about how much still needs to be done to level the playing field for those working to clean up the Bay and its watershed,” said CLA Executive Director Eliza Smith Steinmeier, a lawyer who had previously served on the CLA Board of Directors. “Among those needs are: increasing the legal knowledge for Bay advocates and collaborating with partners on innovative legal and policy strategies to address Bay restoration.”
“Empowering and coordinating the work of over 300 lawyers means our staff has to grow, too,” said Smith Steinmeier. “So we’ve taken a leap of faith to expand our staff capacity to respond to the needs of both our partners and our volunteer attorneys. And, we have a terrific team in place for this ambitious next step.”