Environmental Law Fellow
Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger
Career Path and Life Passions
Laura Beaton enrolled at SOU with the goal of becoming an environmental lawyer and chose Sociology to improve her writing and research skills. While pursuing her degree, Beaton was highly involved with extracurricular activities such as ASSOU, as the director of administration and finance, and the Sociology club.
After receiving her undergraduate degree, Beaton pursued law at the University of Oregon and began her career working at an environmental justice nonprofit, Earth Justice, in Montana. From this job, she networked with her co-workers who pointed her in the direction of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger where she has worked for the last two years as an Environmental Law Fellow.
SOU played a key role in her career path, and in Laura’s own words:
“…it helped me get the skills I needed for law school and because I had those skills honed, I did very well in law school [which] allowed me to get the two jobs that I’ve had, which are two of the hardest jobs in environmental law.”
Useful Job Skills
Beaton says that reading, writing, and critical thinking are the most valuable skills she gained from the program. She states:
“Most days I’m working on tasks where I’m conducting legal research and then writing about it, either writing internal memos to other attorneys, writing a memo to a client, giving advice, or I might be writing a brief [for court] or a comment letter to a government agency commenting on something they are going to do and opining about the legality of it on behalf of my client.”
She also has to have very strong communication skills, because her work involves meeting with clients, although she does not go to court very frequently. The sociology program really helped prepare Beaton for her job by improving her writing and giving her the skills to advocate for her beliefs and positions within writing and discussions.
In addition, her capstone project working with forest landowners provided her with the opportunity to engage in fieldwork and research that directly applies to her work today. The sociology program also exposed her to ideas such as environmental racism and justice and she believes that the sociological perspective that she gained at SOU:
“…has made me more aggressive when it comes to these environmental justice issues because I am better able to see the problem there…[and] has made me a better lawyer.”
Advice for Students
Beaton states that she would tell anyone considering a major in Sociology:
“…yes, yes you should be a Sociology major. I can’t think of anyone it would hurt and I would especially encourage anyone who’s going to be involved in politics, or law, or any kind of career where you have any kind of influence on political decision making. Yes, study sociology!”
Laura also highly recommends participating in independent research and fieldwork as well as getting involved with the campus community as a whole.