Public Interest Law Initiative

PILI Alumni Spotlight: Lyman Welch, 1993 Graduate Fellow

Posted on: May 5, 2015

Lyman Welch

Throughout his career, Lyman Welch has used his legal expertise to protect the environment. Currently the Legal Director at the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Lyman began his career as a PILI Graduate Fellow in 1993 at BPI — Business and Professional People for the Public Interest. It was during his Fellowship that he began to understand the positive influence legal advocacy could have. “I gained a better understanding of how public interest lawyers can use existing laws and regulations to force the government and industry to improve their behavior,” Lyman said. He conducted a research project that was later used to halt construction by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority without environmental review. He realized it was possible for his work to have a lasting, positive impact on the environment.

While Lyman’s work was influential, his networking experiences at PILI were similarly important to him. “One of the best parts of the PILI program,” he said, “was gathering with other PILI Fellows and Interns at pizza lunches and evening social events during the summer to share our experiences and learn what other advocacy organizations were working on in the city.”

After finishing his Fellowship sponsored by Mayer Brown, Lyman spent 8 years working at the firm in Chicago. He continued to work in environmental law, advising companies on environmental risk and litigating civil and environmental cases. He then moved to the nonprofit sector, working at Widener University’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2007, he returned to Chicago as the Water Quality Program Manager for the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “My work has protected the Great Lakes from sewer overflows, industrial pollutants, agricultural runoff and other emerging threats,” Lyman said. “The Alliance uses a collaborative approach to strengthen the policies protecting the drinking water and recreation for more than 40 million people in the Great Lakes region.”

Lyman was recently named the Legal Director for the Alliance. He oversees the work of pro bono lawyers and service providers who are committed to protecting the world’s largest fresh surface water source. His experience at PILI provided a strong foundation. “PILI let me experience how public interest lawyers make the world a better place and encouraged me to devote my career to public interest law to protect the environment.”

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