A trip to West Point, Nebraska, is probably not on the top of the list for many attorneys as favorite things about their job. It is for David Zoll, a partner at Lockridge Grindal Nauen. Zoll currently practices environmental law and loves getting out of the office to meet with clients in person.
One of Zoll’s clients was a small meat-processing facility in West Point, a town of just over 3,000 people. The company was having issues related to the treatment and discharge of their waste products in compliance with the Clean Water Act.
“In order to get a good picture of what their operation looked like, and what their in-house waste water treatment looked like, one of my partners and I did a road trip,” said Zoll. It was a five-hour drive to see everything up close.
A pivotal part of Zoll’s practice is just getting to know people, whether they are small business owners or public officials. He’s been able to connect with many of those people in his role as co-chair of the HCBA Environmental Law Section.
“It's a chance to learn what's going on at the agencies that we interact with,” said Zoll. He had been a regular attendee of HCBA Environmental Law CLE seminars since he started practicing, so becoming a co-chair was a natural next step.
"I would go to the monthly CLE meetings as an opportunity to learn more about environmental law and to meet some of the other attorneys that were practicing in this area. That’s really where it started and I just made a regular practice of attending the first Wednesday of the month,
While environmental regulations can be contentious and complicated, providing an easy avenue for introduction can be beneficial in the long term.
By bringing the regulators in as speakers, "it gives the folks who practice environmental law a chance to understand [the regulators'] perspective, and also to build relationships with them,” he said.
That in turn, can benefit the client. “When you have an issue that comes up for a client, you already have an idea how the regulator will approach the issue. It eases that introductory period of trying to understand where each other is coming from. You can skip past that and be much more effective for your client,” said Zoll.
He thinks more of the younger lawyers should make it out to hear these speakers.
"There are far fewer younger lawyers there than I think there should be because of the value of what they could get out of it. The speakers who come in are always willing to take questions afterward and chat for a while,” said Zoll.
While getting to know people provides some intangible benefits for his practice, there are also some delicious benefits, literally. After he finished his trip to West Point, “They sent us home with a cooler full of hot dogs and sausages and everything. It's like being in elementary school and getting to go on field trips.”