Wednesday, October 2, 2013

DW Women in Law Profile – Meg Coughlin

For Meg Coughlin, a Member in Dickinson Wright’s Troy office, she didn’t know what a lawyer was when she was growing up, but she did know that she wanted to be a lawyer. Since then, she has become one of the leading experts in environmental law in Michigan.

Meg started out as a law clerk with the Michigan Court of Appeals and then moved onto DTE and eventually to Ford Motor Company, specializing in environmental law. Environmental law piqued her interest while she was working at Ford where she was responsible for government investigations and worked frequently on inquiries from the Environmental Protection Agency as the Agency started looking into legacy issues related to waste disposal from manufacturing processes and their environmental impact. Meg decided to join Dickinson Wright after working at Ford, because she determined it to be, at the time, the most progressive firm in Michigan in terms of women and minorities.

Meg works on a range of environmental cases from compliance and enforcement matters, environmental litigation and due diligence, but her most interesting cases involve responses to environmental emergencies, such as a spill or fire. She actually has been the lead Michigan environmental attorney on several environmental emergencies including the largest inland oil spill in the United States and the largest release from a tanker into navigable waters in Michigan.

“In those situations, you often have numerous agencies involved such as EPA, the Coast Guard, OSHA, state & local, emergency responders, as well as client representatives and contractors all trying to respond to this emergency and you are tasked with representing your client and interfacing on a broad array of issues,” says Meg.

With any type of law practice, there are challenges. Meg says that in environmental law, in particular, there are always new laws and regulations as well as interpretations by government agencies necessary to keep up with in order to advise clients. As an environmental attorney you learn about different manufacturing processes and equipment as well as real estate development projects. She says there is “a wealth of knowledge you gain from environmental law about how things are made, produced and transported and their impact on the environment.” Meg says that the practice of environmental law is never boring.

Meg is a member of the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources; the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Environmental and Energy Policy Committee; the Michigan Manufacturers Association’s Air Quality Advisory Committee; and the Air & Waste Management Association. She has been recognized by Michigan Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America as a leader in the field of environmental law.

When she is not at the office or serving on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Roeper School and the Air & Waste Management Association, she likes to be outside kayaking, cross-country skiing or gardening. Usually, you can find her out in her kayak on the Detroit River in the canals north of Belle Isle or up in the wilderness of the U.P. around the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore.

To learn more about Meg Coughlin and her practice, please click here.