Professor Margaret Vick first took water law as JD student at McGeorge 40 years ago last May. At that time, the leading US expert on water law was teaching at McGeorge. She had also always been fascinated by the subject thanks to her upbringing in the middle of a major Western irrigation district, so all in all, there was no better institution to pursue her passion. McGeorge, essentially, was the perfect fit. Today, she believes that this program might be the perfect fit for many prospective students thanks to some unexpected and profound reasons.
Always the Right School
Margaret’s first job after graduating was focused on water law in Arizona, and she has continued to hone her skill in her chosen area of practice ever since. Only recently retired, she stays busy teaching for her alma mater and pursuing research projects in the area. “There’s a growing number of us who call ourselves water law nerds. That is our area of interest and expertise,” she says with a smile.
On a more personal note, when Margaret’s children were in high school, she did not want to be tied to the private practice schedule of deadlines and client commitments but wanted to remain active in the field. So she went back to McGeorge, studied some more, and in 2009 received her JSD, this time in International Water Law. This added degree rounded out her education and provided a global perspective.
Water Law’s Unexpected Social Impact and Importance
There is so much more to water law than many prospective students might imagine. Here’s some context: Margaret grew up in New Mexico, where interaction with the native peoples was quite common. In law school, her background with water law led to a clerkship and first job with a firm representing many Native American tribes in Arizona. This sub-specialty, as she calls it, has remained close to her heart and motivating in her career.
Her private practice, focused on representing several tribes and organizations with a focus on tribal government and tribal water rights. “It’s a fascinating, personally rewarding, and fun experience working with tribal leaders and helping them understand the complexities involved,” she remarks. “I often would describe myself to tribal councils as a translator; my job was to take the legal complexities of water law and the added complexities of tribal rights, and translate them into a way that these leaders could make informed decisions about what they needed to do to protect their people for their future sustainability and their viability as a government.”
The Far-Reaching Value of a McGeorge Degree
Her work also touched upon the effects of climate change on the water sources for these tribes, such as the diminishing quantity of water in the crucial Colorado River. On facing these harder truths, Margaret attests “I think it’s critical. Water allocations in the West are based on historical norms that are no longer present.” From a tribal to federal level, planning infrastructure, delivery of supplies, and economic returns all depend on the physical landscape. “Knowing as much about meteorology and climate as possible for a non-scientistand the legal structures that will still apply even though the natural environment is rapidly changing, is critical to being able to work in our future with variable conditions.”
Margaret knows the deeply applicable value of her degree and learned experience. “That’s what I have been able to bring to the table for my clients; a very broad perspective on legal systems gained from practice and study.” As conditions change, we need to be able to offer proposals for future water uses that are informed by what is happening in other locations. “That’s the value of the different programs that McGeorge offers: courses in the domestic water and environmental laws of the United States and course in international water and environmental law. I took advantage of this 40 years ago, again in 2009 in the graduate program and current students have these same opportunities.” she adds.
Study Now, Assure a Exciting Future
Both climate change and social impact are pivotal issues to consider when going into water law. In a field inextricably focused on the future, prospective students naturally want to choose a cutting-edge program with the longevity to match. “In water law, McGeorge has always had the leading experts,” Margaret assures. “If you want to learn from the practitioners in the field who have written the seminal textbooks, McGeorge is the place to be.”
The credentials are unmatched. Interested in international water law? Margaret reiterates that the leading scholars and practitioners are right here. On top of these advantages for water law study specifically, McGeorge is one of the leading institutions in Government Law and Policy, a field you need to understand in order to lead in this area – what is our future going to be, and how are we going to meet the increasing demand with decreased supply?
“As a water lawyer, the most conflict over water occurs when you don’t have enough of it. Then you need creative, learned people to find solutions. Dealing with that variability and addressing those issues is going to require more people.” This is how you know that your advanced degree from McGeorge comes with immense growth potential and upward mobility; you can be one of the people who works for a better future through the study of water law.