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Kari Twaite, JD/MEM 2011

A photo of Kari Twaite
Part of what attracted me to the legal profession is that I could be not only an advocate and problem-solver, but also a writer.”

Undergraduate Degree:

BA, government and legal studies and environmental studies, Bowdoin College

Career Before Law School:

associate energy consultant at D&R International, Ltd.

Flashy courtroom pyrotechnics have great entertainment value, but lawyers change society more profoundly in quieter ways—through written memorandums, briefs, laws, rules, regulations, opinions, essays, and articles. That is why VLS law student Kari Twaite has spent long hours in the office of Professor Greg Johnson, director of the legal writing program.

“If you give him a paper, he will mark up every single sentence and make every possible correction he can, because he really is passionate about getting students to be the best writers they can be,” she says. “He doesn’t sugarcoat—if you mix up a word, it can have legal implications.”

Kari prizes that rigor for her professional development. “Part of what attracted me to the legal profession is that I could be not only an advocate and problem-solver, but also a writer,” she says.

The highly regarded VLS writing program involves three semesters of structured writing classes and an advanced writing project. Students are exactingly coached by professors, with training augmented by skilled third-year students. Clarity, not legalese, is prized. “Being here has fundamentally changed the way I write,” Kari says. “As a social sciences undergrad, I had been writing in the passive voice, but here I’ve learned to be direct, precise, and clear.”

Already, it has paid off: in an upcoming American Bar Association book, she is listed as the secondary author of a chapter on state and federal energy efficiency programs—the outcome of research she has done as a research team member of the VLS Institute for Energy and the Environment. The institute, a research and public policy consulting group headed by Professor Michael Dworkin, gives top students—Energizers in VLS parlance—hands-on experience at drilling deep into such issues as carbon sequestration and renewable energy. Kari is also collaborating on a book that synthesizes discussions with 50 energy-efficiency leaders, and she recently had a thorough note on the benefits of power microgrids published in the Vermont Law Review.

At 25, she brings a background in both the public and private sectors to her writing voice. Raised in New Jersey, she graduated cum laude from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine with a major in government and legal studies and environmental studies. She interned at two nonprofits. For Friends of the Earth, she researched European Union environmental directives in its Norway branch and drafted reports on the chemicals industry in its Washington office. For the Maine Energy Investment Corp., she marketed sustainable power. “It was inspiring working with people with a lot of passion for what they do,” she recalls.

After Bowdoin, she landed a job as an associate consultant at D&R International, Ltd., a Washington, D.C., energy consulting firm. She helped coordinate the Energy Star appliance efficiency program in Maryland, which involved bringing to the table utility companies, manufacturers, government agencies, and retailers such as Sears and Home Depot. “It taught me a different mindset—more collaborative and solution-oriented, focused on ‘how can we make this work?’”

She chose VLS for its depth of environmental offerings and because “it was one of the few places I saw happy law students.” And she was intrigued by its joint degree program: in four years, she’ll have not only a JD from VLS but a Master of Environmental Management from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Yale’s classes in economics, public policy, and business management “will give me a broader skill set to draw on when I’m working in the energy efficiency field,” she says.

On a personal level, she’s careful to conserve energy with such steps as using low-energy bulbs and turning off room lights. She was hoping to make it to her 30th birthday without driving a car but, she laughs, “It just didn’t work out in rural Vermont.”