Career Spotlight: Erika Zimmerman
Zimmerman, who is a trial attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division with the United States Department of Justice, in Washington, D.C., pursues her passion for the environment by enforcing laws in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest area of the U.S.
She got her start learning about environmental law while at UF Law, where she was a co-chairwoman of the 10th Annual Public Interest Environmental Conference hosted by UF Law. As a co-chairwoman, Zimmerman got to mingle with leaders in the environmental law field.
“Taking part in the conference in particular was very significant because I got to meet and speak with practitioners, leaders of non-profit organizations, professors and other students,” she said. “I think taking part in activities was really an invaluable part of law school.”
Zimmerman’s interest in environmental law led her to study abroad in Costa Rica, where she learned how other countries handle environmental issues.
“International environmental law was one of my favorite classes, which led me to want to learn about other countries’ policies,” she said. “I got to work with lawyers from all over Latin America and got many different perspectives on the practice of environmental law.”
When the Department of Justice gave her the opportunity to do environmental enforcement, Zimmerman jumped at the opportunity. Current UF law students should look into what the government has to offer, she said.
“I took part in the Attorney General’s Honors Program that’s geared for new attorneys coming out of law school or finishing judicial clerkships,” she said. “I absolutely love the job and I encourage students to look into the program.”
Working with the U.S. Government is one of the best decisions she ever made because of the opportunity to work big cases immediately, she said. She recently negotiated a settlement where a big farm production company was discharging manure into a river in violation of the Clean Water Act and not meeting the Confined Animal Feeding Operations permit program’s standards. After some tough negotiating, Zimmerman says the company is now improving their practices.
“Working for the government has been an absolutely amazing experience,” she said. “I get to work with the best attorneys, handle my own cases and get a lot of responsibility that a large firm wouldn’t offer.”
Law students can apply for summer internships or the Attorney General’s Honors program on the Department of Justice’s website at www.usdoj.gov. The deadline for applications is Sept. 17.