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Mr. Rogers, and Remembering Why I Became an Environmental Attorney

I've had the great pleasure over the past two weeks of working again for the first time in many years with the person who gave me my first job following my graduation from law school. My first boss! He recently brought me in to assist with some behind the scenes work on some litigation. In many ways, it turned back the clock and made me feel 25 years younger.

The whole experience got me to thinking about why I became an environmental attorney in the first place. Not necessarily why I went to law school and became an attorney, but why I decided to specialize in environmental (and later occupational safety) law.

Like many attorneys who specialize in uncommon fields, I get the "why environmental law" question pretty frequently (especially at cocktail parties and networking events when everyone is struggling for something to talk about). As it turns out, the answer is both simple and complicated.

My typical response is that I took the only environmental law course my law school offered and it just stuck. I met the professor (who was on a panel of judges for a moot court argument I did), decided to take the class, and the rest is history.

The real story that I never tell (until now) is that it was probably former children's television show host Mr. Rogers (see above, right, wearing proper personal protective equipment) who ultimately led me to be the EHS attorney and all-around "factory rat" that I am today.

As a kid in the '70s when there weren't 200+ cable channels, Mr. Rogers was must see TV. My favorite part of any show, though, was when Mr. Rogers occasionally visited a factory to show kids where adults worked and how things were made.

Whether it was crayons, rubber balls, or musical instruments, I was hooked by the sights, sounds, and action inside those factory walls. Once I figured out that there was a way to be an attorney and spend time inside factories, I knew I'd found my calling.

Hokey? Yes. Also true? Yes.

Here's a bonus link to an old Michigan NPR story about some of the factories that Mr. Rogers visited back in the day:

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