Effectuating Change through Energy Policy and Climate Change Advocacy

Meet Meghan O'Brien

Q: When did you decide to pursue a law degree?

A: Law school was always a dream of mine. I have assignments from Elementary School saying, “When I grow up I want to be a lawyer.” I formally decided to pursue a law degree in high school, and I planned my undergraduate career in preparation for that pursuit. 

Q: Why did you choose USD School of Law?

A: I chose USD Law because of the Energy Policy Initiatives Center and the quality of the legal concentration in Energy and Environmental Law. Many law schools have energy programs, but USD is unique in the caliber of the courses, available resources, and experiential opportunities. USD offers varied coursework that spans environmentalism, policy, business, and regulation; and addresses current industry issues. Further, USD provides students the tools to succeed professionally beyond the classroom through its focus on practical application of law. 

Q: When did you decide to focus on energy and environmental law? 

A: I took an elective course in Sustainable Urban Planning my senior year of college. This class introduced me to a few of the important energy and environmental issues facing California at the time. I discovered that I was passionate about the topic. I loved the intersection of business and legal thinking, and the opportunity to have a positive influence on the world. It was important to me to go into law school with a plan and to be able to establish a niche for myself. I believe having a specialty greatly improves employment opportunities by allowing the law student to dive deeper into a specific professional market. I chose USD Law for their specialty in energy and environmental law and I declared my specialty at the conclusion of my 1L year. 

Q: What professional experience have you had since leaving law school?

A: After graduating law school, I went on to join the California Public Utilities Commission. I currently work as a regulatory analyst in the Public Advocates Office in the Climate Change Initiatives Section. California is pioneering the way for renewable energy and climate change, and it is amazing to be part of that effort. 

Q: How did your experience at USD School of Law prepare you for your current job?

A: It is a very exciting time to work in the energy industry, and USD Law fully prepared me for my current job. I began my career with strong legal writing and analysis skills, as well as specialized knowledge in energy law and more technical aspects of the industry. I gained this knowledge through my courses in the energy specialty and through participation in experiential opportunities such as the Energy Law Clinic and an externship at FERC. The energy industry is very dynamic, and policy is quickly changing. This provides recent graduates a great opportunity to jump in and not be significantly behind many senior colleagues in certain emerging areas. However, this dynamic quality also necessitates strong core skills. USD Law provided me the foundational skills and experiences necessary to adapt and succeed in my chosen career. 

Q: What advice would you give to a prospective student interested in energy and environmental law? What things might you have done differently?

A: Take a class! USD offers a wide range of environmental and energy classes. Even taking just one class will help to open doors. Look into the Energy Policy Initiatives Center (EPIC) and consider writing on to the Journal of Climate and Energy Law. Don’t be hesitant to take a job outside of the energy or environmental field your first 1L summer. Any experience is good experience, and until you have gained some specialized knowledge through coursework or participation in a clinic or journal, you may not be able to secure an internship in the field. Get the most out of what USD has to offer and branch out from there. Career Services and our alumni network are both great resources for networking within the industry as well. Never be afraid to apply for an opportunity and put yourself out there!

Q: What activities did you participate in at USD School of Law?

A: I was a member of the Student Bar Association, Women’s Law Caucus, Environmental Law Society, USD Hiking League, and the intramural softball league. I also participated in the Energy Law Clinic, Energy Policy Initiatives Center, Washington D.C. Semester Externship, Paris Summer Study Abroad, Corporate Counsel Internship, and Agency Internship programs. 

Q: What was the best thing that happened to you at law school?

A: Securing my position at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the Washington D.C. externship program was my greatest memory from law school. It was highly competitive to get an externship in D.C. and I had tremendous support from faculty. My semester studying in Washington D.C. and working at FERC ended up being one of the most influential experiences of my law school career. The amount of practical experience and the amazing opportunities and connections I made was incredible.

Meghan O'Brien

Legal Interest: Energy Law

USD School of Law Graduation Year: 2017 

Bachelor's Degree: Philosophy Major, Business Law Minor 

Hometown: Winnemucca, Nevada 

Current Job:  Regulatory Analyst, California Public Utilities Commission, Public Advocates Office, Climate Change Initiatives