Class of 2023: JD Grad Plans for the West’s Water Future by Adapting Legal System to Climate Reality

May 12, 2023

“All my professors have helped me examine the humanity in the law, and I want to keep that focus as I begin my legal career.”

Name: Thomas Corrigan
Degree: JD
Cleveland, Ohio
Undergraduate Institution: Georgetown University
Awards, Student Groups, Clinics, Journals, etc.: Senior Managing Editor of Arizona Law Review, Arizona Law Ambassador, University of Arizona Ombuds Committee, Natural Resource Use and Management Clinic, 2021-2022 Vice President of the Environmental Law Society, CALI Awards for Administrative Law, Conflicts of Law, and Legal Research, Analysis, and Communication II

What initially inspired you to attend law school, and has that changed over the course of your studies?

In 2019, I was at an inflection point in my career. I wanted to invest in aspects of my professional life—public service, policy analysis, issue advocacy—that had made work most fulfilling up to that point. My early-career mentors had all graduated from law school, which made an impact, too. In this period in our country’s history, I also wanted to explore how being a lawyer could strengthen our democratic institutions.

While my interests have broadened, that initial inspiration has stayed with me. I see several paths to maintain my inspiration as I begin my career in law and into the future.

Why did you choose University of Arizona Law?

As a kid, I loved visiting Arizona on RV trips with my aunt and uncle. As an undergrad student, I began being interested in water management—and the role that the law plays in it—while studying abroad in Amman, Jordan I read Cadillac Desert and then Professor Robert Glennon’s Unquenchable, and I was hooked. I had to apply.

One week before the pandemic shutdown began, I was fortunate to visit Arizona Law. The half-day on campus showed me a collegial, close-knit community amid a large research university: it was unlike any other environment that I had experienced. I sat down with Professor Glennon, Dean Marc Miller, and other folks, and I heard a clear-eyed vision for legal education that was more affordable and more accessible to all. Being at Arizona Law just made sense.

How do you think you have changed from your 1L year to now?

I tend not to view areas of the law in a silo anymore. Taking Federal Indian Law as a 1L elective—while I was taking Constitutional Law and Property Law—played an influential role in this change in perspective. Now I try to take a holistic approach to issues generally and to spot intersections where they exist.

What will you miss most about your time at University of Arizona Law?

The way that my professors connect legal doctrine to the human stories at the center of practicing law. It’s the way that Professor Sylvia Lett incorporates her experience as a Capital Habeas Unit attorney into her legal writing and Criminal Procedure courses. Or the way that Professor Heather Whiteman Runs Him infuses Tribal Water Law with her background working with tribes in water litigation and shares the

experience of her own tribe. Or Professor Xiaoqian Hu’s discussion of exclusionary zoning and restrictive covenants in Property Law. All my professors have helped me examine the humanity in the law, and I want to keep that focus as I begin my legal career.

What was your favorite law school experience or extracurricular activity, and why?

Serving as a writing fellow as a 2L. I didn’t have the in-class experience as a 1L due to the pandemic, and it was fun to kind of make up for that loss by helping 1Ls navigate their first legal writing endeavors. And helping them edit their work probably improved my legal writing just as much as it improved theirs.

What are you most proud of about your time while at University of Arizona Law?

Being part of the Arizona Law Review as a member of the Managing Editor team. The work is demanding, and I am proud to collaborate with such a dedicated group to ensure that we edit each article well and publish each issue on time.

Are there any particular issues or causes within the legal system that you are passionate about or want to address in your career?

Planning for Arizona and the West’s water future. Human ingenuity allowed us to build large communities in an arid climate. Now it’s up to us to adapt our legal system to our climate reality so that we can create a more equitable water regime–with tribes, city dwellers, rural communities, and farmers all at the table.

What are your future career plans?

After the bar exam, I will clerk for Chief Justice Robert Brutinel at the Arizona Supreme Court. After my clerkship, I will return as an associate to DLA Piper in Phoenix, where I spent my 2L summer.

Looking back on your law school experience, what would you have done differently or what advice would you give to your younger self?

You will need an SPF 50 here all year round, so plan accordingly.

Message for your fellow Class of 2023:

Our Zoom 1L year notwithstanding, we’ve had conversations in and out of class that I cherish. I am looking forward to seeing what post-grad has in store for us.