External view of  the Royal Courts of Justice building, London

Environmental law: fund budding lawyers to protect the planet

Environmental justice and aspiring lawyers

Our legal team fights environmental injustice – stopping damaging developments and raising awareness of their impacts on climate change and nature loss.

It's rolled back injunctions that prevent fracking protests, helped stop coal mines and successfully challenged unlawful government cuts to the UK solar industry. To name a few.

Our legal interns play a big role in our successes while gaining the experience they need to kickstart their careers.

But not everyone can afford to volunteer.

We've created a fund that pays our legal interns a London living wage. The Phil Michaels Legal Interns Scholarship Fund supports talented young people from less-advantaged backgrounds.

We can't keep the fund going without your support. Please contribute to help aspiring environmental lawyers reach their potential and protect all our futures.

Environmental justice and aspiring lawyers

Our legal team fights environmental injustice – stopping damaging developments and raising awareness of their impacts on climate change and nature loss.

It's rolled back injunctions that prevent fracking protests, helped stop coal mines and successfully challenged unlawful government cuts to the UK solar industry. To name a few.

Our legal interns play a big role in our successes while gaining the experience they need to kickstart their careers.

But not everyone can afford to volunteer.

We've created a fund that pays our legal interns a London living wage. The Phil Michaels Legal Interns Scholarship Fund supports talented young people from less-advantaged backgrounds.

We can't keep the fund going without your support. Please contribute to help aspiring environmental lawyers reach their potential and protect all our futures.

Phil Michaels smiling outdoors.

Phil Michaels

Phil Michaels was our Head of Legal from 2001 to 2010.

He enjoyed many successes, such as preventing toxic US "Ghost Ships" being scrapped in Hartlepool.

The deteriorating naval vessels contained asbestos, heavy diesel and carcinogenic chemicals known as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

Phil Michaels smiling outdoors.
Phil Michaels next to solar panels on a terrace house roof

Then there was the time he forced companies to continue reporting on their social and environmental impacts – when the government was prepared to let them off. The government backed down and paid our legal costs.

Phil sadly died in August 2014, aged just 42.

One of Phil’s legacies was his determination to seek justice for communities affected by environmental harm. Our legal team continues to put people and environmental rights at the heart of its work.

Phil Michaels next to solar panels on a terrace house roof
Friends of the Earth legal team

About the fund

The Phil Michaels Legal Interns Scholarship Fund provides paid internships for aspiring young environmental lawyers.

Phil believed that everyone has the right to a healthy environment. We're honouring that conviction by creating this fund in his memory. It's the only one of its kind offered by an environmental charity in the UK.

Thanks to the wonderful supporters of Phil’s Fund, several talented interns have already completed the programme.

Friends of the Earth legal team
Sonam Gordhan

"I’m incredibly proud to work on such important issues in environmental justice with a fearless and motivated legal team."

Sonam Gordhan completed the Phil Michaels Legal Internship in 2018. She contributed to a number of successes, such as securing vital environmental protections post-Brexit and holding the government to account over its climate change obligations.

Sonam Gordhan
Wildflowers and a blue sky

Encouraging diversity

The fund gives young people the chance to become the lawyers that Phil so believed the environmental movement needs.

Phil would also be happy to know that we recruit interns from a diverse group of applicants – talented people who couldn't otherwise afford to gain such experience.

Past interns include candidates from the BAME and LGBT communities.

Wildflowers and a blue sky
Phil Michaels in a green field with trees in the background, smiling and making the Friends of the Earth logo with his hand

Fundraising targets

A 12-month internship costs £25,000 including overheads, training, travel and the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour.

Please consider supporting this unique scheme today. Contact Jo Finburgh on 020 7566 1428 or by email if you would like to chat about your support.

Or make a donation now. Thank you.

Phil Michaels in a green field with trees in the background, smiling and making the Friends of the Earth logo with his hand