By Chris Patrick, staff writer
An environmental ethics class initially sparked Kathleen Zaratzian’s interest in environmental law. She describes herself at that time as “idealistic” and out to “save the world.”
Now in the Virginia Coastal Policy Center and her final year at William & Mary Law School, Zaratzian says that she has become more practical.
“I still feel that passion in my heart, but in practice it’s very much about balancing lots of different interests,” she says.
Last summer, Zaratzian worked in the Natural Resources Division of the California attorney general’s office, representing state environmental agencies. She mainly dealt with cases concerning California’s severe drought.
Zaratzian says that handling these drought cases was a matter balancing the preservation of natural resources with the differing needs of community members, such as farmers who needed water to grow crops.
Zaratzian will continue practicing to balance interests as she works on her VCPC project investigating possible changes to the National Flood Insurance Program’s regulations. She will research the effectiveness of green infrastructure—water management techniques that mimic nature—in stormwater and flooding management to find evidence that these techniques should qualify as flood insurance credits. She values the hands-on experience.
“It’s so much more interesting to apply law and to do things that actually matter as opposed to just the theoretical, academic law school curriculum,” Zaratzian says.
A native of Santa Barbara, CA, Zaratzian also sees her law school experience as a chance to learn about coastal Virginia’s culture, politics, and environmental issues.
Zaratzian eventually wants to move back to California to work in environmental protection law with the government. She worked as a paralegal for three years in her hometown after graduating in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She double majored in American studies, focusing in environmental policy, and English.
An extension partner of Virginia Sea Grant, VCPC at William & Mary Law School provides policy and legal analysis to its partners on coastal resource and community issues in its mission to educate and train the future lawyers and leaders of tomorrow.