Externship Profile: DHEC-OCRM

An interest in environmental law inspired Charleston School of Law students Lauren Coltrane and Wes Kerns to begin an externship this summer with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, specifically the Ocean and Coastal Resource Management division (DHEC-OCRM).

Coltrane, a native of Hilton Head, S.C., grew up spending time on the beach. “I wanted to work for DHEC-OCRM because it would give me the opportunity to be a part of an organization whose work had such an important impactnot only on my hometown, but also on South Carolina,” said Coltrane.

DHEC-OCRM protects and develops the state’s coastal resources, including preserving sensitive natural, historic and cultural resources in the eight coastal counties of South Carolina. Working on permits for local shellfish farms, rising third-year student Kerns learned the proper procedures for raising and harvesting shellfish. “Many of the projects I work on require that I do some research outside of the legal realm, which always proves to be informative and enlightening,” said Kerns.

“The office is a state agency involved in protecting the coastal environment for the benefit of the people,” said Kerns. “I believe that preservation of the natural coastal environment is an invaluable public service because we all want future generations to be able to enjoy and benefit from this dynamic environment that we are fortunate enough to be a part of.”

The legal program works to enforce regulations and laws to preserve the state’s coastal areas for such future generations. During the externship, Coltrane witnessed oral arguments about the dredging and expansion of the Savannah River, before the South Carolina Supreme Court in Columbia.

“I have learned to be more efficient and thorough in my research, how to be a more effective writer and how to meet deadlines set for me,” said Coltrane. This type of work has helped Coltrane develop skills she will use in her future legal practice. “Careers that I had never considered prior to this externship are suddenly possibilities,” explained Coltrane.

Through working with DHEC-OCRM, Kerns develops his time management skills. “I have learned to address just one project at a time and if I devote the right amount of time to each project, I keep from feeling overwhelmed,” said Kerns. Working with other lawyers daily he learns that, “A team can work well on a project together without redundancy or conflict, and there is great value to having more than one perspective on a legal issue.”

Both students will continue their externships through the end of the summer. They encourage second-year students with an interest in environmental law, coastal conservation and administrative law to apply for this externship next year.

Charleston School of Law’s externship program allows students to gain practical work experience while earning course credit. Students complement their classroom studies by working under the direct supervision of members of the judiciary or attorneys in the public sector. This summer, Charleston School of Law students are at 28 dynamic externships sites helping the community. Since fall 2006, Charleston School of Law students have completed approximately 72,829 externship hours.

Read more about DHEC-OCRM here.

Story and photos by Lucy J. Remitz.

Read more externship profiles here:

  • Externship Profile: Crisis Ministries
  • Externship Profile: DHEC-OCRM
  • Externship Profile: U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • Externship Profile: U.S. District Court
  • Externship Profile: City of Charleston Legal Department
  • Externship Profile: Seamen’s Church Institute