Your Gifts at Work

Elizabeth Hawkins Makes a Career Path Change

Elizabeth Hawkins is an environmental lawyer studying in the University of Houston’s Energy, Environmental and Natural Resources Master of Laws (L.L.M.) program, but certainly isn’t green when it comes to experience in the field. After working as a lawyer in a large defense firm, then in government, and also having had her own plaintiff’s personal injury practice, she worked as a contract lawyer. Then, around 20 years into her career, she had the opportunity to re-invent herself completely. The corporation that offered her a job next was looking for someone to handle the environmental practice. “Each path taught me so many things that I can honestly say have gotten me to this point. I know that I am a better corporate lawyer because I’ve had these broad, enriching experiences.” She elaborates, “More importantly, I was fortunate enough that in each of these forums, to have had mentors who allowed me to learn and grow.”

One of the most influential professors she’s had at UH is professor Tracy Hester. “Professor Hester not only brings to the table the substantive area of environmental law, but the actual practical experience. Co-mingling both, for the benefit of the students, has been amazing.”

Environmental law is a moving target, so to speak. Policies and regulations are constantly in flux. Law students who choose to specialize in environmental law need to have certain tools in order to be prepared to work in this field. Some of those many needed traits, according to Hawkins, are adaptability and flexibility. Hawkins believes it is important, “to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.” She adds, “Understanding different perspectives will always help you to serve your clients better.”

Hawkins knows that the future holds a great deal of unknown factors for those practicing environmental law. “I believe that an environmental lawyer today must understand that the practice they see today will more than likely be very different from the world they will have 30 years from now. Keeping up not only on the laws, but understanding global stresses (political, economic, as well as environmental,” will assist the environmental lawyer in providing the best legal guidance and advice for their clients.”

Having graduated from UH Law in 1988, Hawkins is excited to be graduating again, this time with an L.L.M. in December 2014. “I believe that all that I have been able to accomplish throughout my career should speak volumes to what the Law Center equipped me with,” says Hawkins. “I feel that I acquired a solid and practical approach to law.”