Employee Spotlight: Jake Elkin


Our “Employee Spotlight Series” will share with you who the people working behind the scenes to bring justice to our clients and their environments. This series will include interviews from both our Akron and Pittsburgh offices to give you an idea of who are and what we do.

The employee spotlight this week is Jake Elkin who is one of our summer legal interns. He has been with us since May and will be interning through the first week of August. He studied as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago where he received his B.A in English Language and Literature and minored in Environmental Studies and Philosophy. He is currently studying at Columbia Law School.

Q: What did you do before you got involved at Fair Shake?  

A: During my first year at law school, I interned in New York Lawyers for the Public Interest’s Environmental Justice Program and volunteered in Manhattan Legal Service’s Housing Intake Clinic. These experiences helped me to familiarize myself more deeply with the worlds of environmental justice and legal services, respectively, which has proven very relevant to my internship at Fair Shake.

Q: Tell me how you first got involved with Fair Shake?  

A:  I learned of Fair Shake while researching environmental law organizations in my home state of Pennsylvania. I am particularly interested in both environmental justice and legal services work, so when I saw that Fair Shake’s model centers on providing environmental representation to modest-means clients, I knew that I wanted to get involved.

Q: What is a typical day like at Fair Shake?  

A: My days are typically split between long-term projects such as legal memo writing and document drafting and short-term assignments such as conducting research to provide answers to questions surrounding ongoing cases. Depending on the day, I also participate in staff meetings and client calls.

Q: Favorite memory from work? 

A: My favorite memories from work revolve around interactions with Fair Shake’s clients and learning about the work they are doing to protect their local environments.

Q: What's a common question you’ve heard from clients?  

A: Is there anything they can do to stop the pollution that is affecting their enjoyment of their homes and local resources?

A: What do you like most about working with Fair Shake? 

A: My favorite part about working with Fair Shake is being able to learn from the staff’s experience and knowledge in environmental law and related matters. Since the start of my internship, I have been able to work with Fair Shake’s staff on cases related to a variety of technical issue areas, and being able to learn from Fair Shake’s staff has helped me familiarize myself with Pennsylvania’s environmental law framework in a short period of time.

Q: What has surprised you most about working with Fair Shake? 

A:  I have been surprised by how collaborative the network of environmental organizations in the area is. It has been inspiring to see the different ways that these organizations are able to work together and contribute their expertise to take on these large environmental issues.

Q: What do you wish other people knew about Fair Shake? 

A: I wish that more people in the area knew that there is work being done to provide environmental counsel to individuals and groups that don’t have the resources of large oil and gas companies or other interest groups in the area.

 Q: Why do you think the work that you do is important? 

A: I think that it is important to approach environmental issues, even globe-spanning issues, from a local perspective. Through Fair Shake, local organizations and individuals are able to have their voices heard in environmental disputes while enforcing their own rights and interests. Without organizations like Fair Shake, the unique perspective of its clients could be too easily ignored.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not working?  

A: I like hiking, reading, and going to museums.  

Q: What might someone be surprised to know about you?  

A: I recently got into camping and backpacking, and while it’s a work in progress, I’m trying to steadily improve my outdoor skills.

Q: What is your favorite skill that you have unrelated to what you do at Fair Shake? 

A: I like to think I’m a pretty good cook.