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Q&A with Environmental Lawyer Lindsay Murl `02

Q&A with Environmental Lawyer Lindsay Murl `02

Lindsay (Masters) Murl `02, a Country Day lifer, has always had a passion for science, history, and the outdoors. She’s turned those passions into an impressive career path, including work as a geologist for Worley in Los Angeles, an environmental regulator for the state of Colorado, and an attorney-advisor for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

What role did Country Day play in inspiring you to become an environmental lawyer?
I have always had a love of the outdoors, but I never thought about becoming a lawyer in high school. However, my environmental literature independent study with Mr. [Bob] Patterson introduced me to Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. They also helped me connect what I was learning in the classroom with problems in the real world and understand what can be done to protect human health and the environment. We only have one planet, one home. We are not separate from the natural world, and how we treat Earth directly impacts our health and our future.

Was there a teacher or staff member at Country Day that encouraged you to become a lawyer?
No one pushed me to be a lawyer - some deterred it, actually - but I always loved asking questions and engaging in rigorous debate. Mr. [Merle] Black was extremely influential. He laid a strong foundation that helped me thrive in college and beyond. I remember being a little intimidated when I enrolled in my sophomore history class. Mr. Black distributed famously heavy black binders filled with college seminar-style materials. However, I quickly realized I loved being challenged by his long reading assignments and intense classroom discussions. The challenges he set helped me realize what I am capable of. His classes and passion for teaching nurtured my love of learning. And that’s what I think law is all about – constant learning.

Were there any lessons you learned at Country Day that you feel helped you get to where you are now?
Small communities, like Country Day, are really important. Students can spend a lot of time in high school itching to get out, dreaming of the bigger world. But when you get out there and join your profession, you find you end up becoming part of some sort of small community. And that community spirit that I felt at Country Day was important. It was such a positive experience, and I try to bring that attitude to my work and life today.

Lindsay Murl in her costume in Pre-k.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of working for the EPA?
I know my work makes a difference. It’s rewarding to help lessen the risks to both the environment and communities. It’s important to think about hazardous waste facilities and Superfund cleanups holistically. Everything is connected. What is the risk to human health, drinking water resources, or ecosystems from chemicals or releases? Are Indian tribes’ resources like treaty right fisheries impacted? What do laws and regulations require? What enforcement tools may be available to assure compliance? It’s intellectually stimulating, but it all ties into protecting people and the environment.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a government employee?
Some people think the government does too much, others think it does to little. Some folks will always disagree, but that’s something you have to accept. You do the best you can in your role.

Are there any unexpected ways that Country Day prepared you for your career?

I think it’s important to receive a well-rounded education so that you can become a well-rounded person. The arts are important! At Country Day, my early experiences in theater gave me the confidence to speak in front of people, which greatly helped with the public speaking aspect of being a lawyer. Of course, I still enjoy Shakespeare and Beckett, too.

What advice do you have for any current student who is thinking about pursuing a career as a lawyer or working in public service?
The great secret about government is that you get to do the most interesting work with the greatest people. I love my colleagues. They are intelligent, caring, and mission driven. Our work is meaningful and affects people’s lives. Since environmental regulation is complex, it’s also interdisciplinary and team-driven work. I am constantly learning about other topics and working with others. I’ve gotten to learn about everything from Cold War nuclear weapons complex history to Native American sacred sites. Public service is also a wonderful place to make contributions to your country, state, and/or local community, whether it’s in civilian government work or in the military.

What’s your favorite memory from your time at Country Day?
It’s not a specific memory, but I want to recognize my peers at Country Day. When I think about my time there, I think about the friendships I made. My friends and classmates taught me just as much as the teachers did. Being a teenager can be tough, but I had friends and a peer support system that was important to me and influenced who I am today. It’s a caring and positive community, and I think the world needs more of that spirit.

Lindsay Murl posing for a photo while hiking in Colorado.