Daniel Sotelino, JD 2009
If you want to do environmental law, VLS is the place to do it.”
Regulatory Consultant and Brazil Country Lead, Enhesa
Daniel Sotelino was a professional guitarist and ethnomusicologist; had taught political science, Portuguese, and Spanish in the U.S.; and had worked at a cultural institute in his native Brazil when he found himself at a crossroads. He wanted a more stable career than music; bilingual and bicultural, he'd always been interested in law through the anthropological lens of "how societies set themselves up," as he explains it. He also wanted skills to act on his environmental commitment. "If you want to do environmental law, VLS is the place to do it," he says.
Since 2009, Daniel has been a regulatory consultant and Brazil Country Lead at the Washington, D.C. office of Enhesa, an environmental, health, and safety consultancy serving more than 150 jurisdictions worldwide. As more Brazilian companies go multinational, Daniel recruits their business and provides up-to-date guidance on the legal requirements they'll face in new markets. He says of the 70 fellow attorneys who consult for Enhesa, "We're not pursuing the legal rights of clients, and we don't have attorney/client privilege-we operate almost as journalists, informing them of how particular legal systems work."
Daniel advises clients in a constantly changing regulatory landscape. His VLS energy regulation courses with professors Michael Dworkin and Marc Mihaly (now president and dean of VLS), he notes, "gave me the foundation I needed to get my current job." He also worked in the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic alongside Professor David Mears (now commissioner for the Vermont Department of Natural Resources) and Professor Pat Parenteau. Daniel contributed to energy litigation on climate change, coal mining in Montana, and a U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief on the Clean Water Act implications of energy generator cooling towers. "I can't say enough good things about the academic experience I had at VLS," he says. "I had an excellent relationship with every professor." He adds, "I've had a lot of experience in schools as a teacher and a student, and the quality of people at VLS was amazing."
When Daniel wanted to expand his studies into Brazilian law, Professor Dworkin gave him both the academic support and free rein to do it. Mihaly and Professor Rebecca Purdom, now assistant dean of Environmental Programs at VLS, helped Daniel launch a novel project he was uniquely qualified to execute: bringing 20 lawyers from Brazil's nationalized oil company, Petrobras, to VLS for studies in U.S. environmental law. Daniel negotiated the visit and was a teaching assistant for the Brazilian attorneys. He explains he wanted his classmates to see a different kind of oil company. "Petrobras is state-owned in a democratic society, so it has an obligation to the Brazilian people and must comply with some of the most advanced environmental laws in the world."
Although opportunities like these make VLS "the referent for the field" in environmental law, Daniel says, there's more to it than consistently passionate faculty and students. "I can't understate how important this is," he says: "There are also skeptics at VLS who almost make light of environmental concerns-that's important because that's the world we live in, and you really learn from those interactions."