February 12, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Alumni News | Bennett Followed Passion for Environmental Law to Ohio EPA

Since May 2012, Ohio University alum Colin Bennett ’05 has worked as a Staff Attorney with the Ohio EPA, specifically representing the Division of Drinking and Ground Waters.

Bennett earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the College of Arts & Sciences in 2005. He then attended Florida State University College of Law and received his J.D. in 2008. He worked as a Law Clerk for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee researching and drafting memorandum on environmental law, as well as civil and appellate procedures. He later worked at the Franklin County Public Defenders office representing clients in criminal cases.

Last summer Bennett participated in the Center for Law, Justice & Culture‘s Summer Law & Trial Institute.

Colin Bennett, outdoor portrait

Colin Bennett

What brought you to Ohio University?

It only took one campus visit for me to fall in love with Ohio University. In addition to the beauty of the campus, it was obvious that the tour guide, other students, and faculty all loved being there. Even a brief tour made it clear what a great culture there is on campus and what a special place Athens is to call home.

What is your current occupation? Explain what you do in a typical day.

I work for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, representing the Division of Drinking and Ground Waters (Safe Drinking Water Act) and the Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance (mostly grants and loans for drinking water and waste water projects). There isn’t really a typical day, but some of my different job responsibilities include drafting and negotiating enforcement orders, researching and writing general counsel opinions, drafting proposed rules and legislation, negotiating grant and loan agreements, and working with the Office of the Ohio Attorney General on civil litigation cases.

How did you become interested in that field? Was there a particular topic or field of law that got you interested in it in the first place?

I wanted to pursue a career in environmental law when I went to law school. I grew up in a family with a strong appreciation of the environment and nature.  When I started undergrad I was a marine biology major, but after a year decided the sciences weren’t for me. When I thought about other career paths where I could do work related to helping protect the environment, I was drawn to the law. I attended Florida State University for law school because of its environmental law program.

What’s your favorite part of your position? What are you passionate about?

I really like the variety of work I do on a regular basis. Having a mix of enforcement, general counsel questions, rule and statute drafting, and policy questions always keeps work fresh and exciting. I love knowing that the work I do helps to protect drinking water in Ohio.

How did your Ohio University experience prepare you for law school and shape your career path?

I think that taking a variety of courses from different academic areas was helpful. Math and science classes required a lot of logical thought for problem solving and to learn the subject matter. Political science and history classes gave me a lot of writing practice, which was helpful as well. Especially the political theory classes. Dr. Julie White would get a recommendation from me.

What do you think were most important things you did as an undergrad to prepare you for law school?

Any courses that require a lot of writing are helpful, along with classes that require analytical thought. But in the end, you have three years of law school to hone those skills so major in something that you find interesting.  I know lawyers with backgrounds in math, music, theater, and science, as well as the more traditional majors. You’ll probably only go through college once, so majoring in something you enjoy is important.

Do you have any advice for students interested in law?

I would recommend finding ways to expose yourself to the practice of law, whether through an internship, volunteering, or working after college, prior to committing to attending law school. Law school has unfortunately become an enormous financial burden for most people, so doing as much as you can to figure out if it is a career you will enjoy is important (and I do love it, which makes the student loan payments slightly less painful).

What is your favorite Ohio University memory?

Spending the summers in Athens before my junior and senior years were some of my favorite times there. The town isn’t as crowded and you can really experience all it has to offer (also helpful to have a lighter course load).

Anything else you would like to share?

Enjoy your four (or five or six years) in Athens. My wife (also a Bobcat) and I try to get back down every chance we get because it truly is a special place.

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