Engineering a career: Cooley student sets sights on environmental law
Krysten Hergert earned her undergrad degree in scientific and technical communication from Michigan Technological University, starting her studies in environmental engineering.
“I quickly realized I was more interested in the bigger picture than the individual engineering problems,” she says. “We toured a water treatment plant and I was asking questions like, ‘How does this entire system work together? Where does the water come from and what happens next?’ I wanted to be the person who explained those answers to others.”
Hergert then mostly worked in proposal writing for architecture and engineering firms, a very technical marketing niche.
“I love writing proposals—they're like a giant puzzle,” she says. “You need to think of all the individual pieces of information that need to be included and then work out how they go together in a cohesive manner. After you have all the content, you have to package it in a way that makes sense and gets all the technical information across while still grabbing the reader's attention. It's fun to put yourself in the shoes of your audience and try and figure out what will most resonate with them.”
Now a 3L student at Cooley Law School, she was drawn to study law by wanting to make a difference in people's lives.
“While I love writing proposals, in the end there is usually more than one architecture or engineering firm that can do a good job for a client. I wanted to join a field where I could still engage in lots of technical research and writing but, at the end of it, what I write really matters to people's lives now and in the future,” she says.
She particularly appreciative of the Cooley Law faculty.
“The professors are the best part,” she says. “Most are willing to bend over backwards to get you the help you need. They are always willing to meet with you until you truly understand something.”
Hergert enjoyed working at the law school’s 60+ Clinic for the Fall 2022 term.
“It was an amazing experience to work on real legal issues. I wrote estate planning documents, under the supervision of a licensed attorney, for real clients that likely wouldn't be able to afford legal representation elsewhere,” she says. “It was wonderful to know I was making a concrete difference in people's lives. I wanted to become a lawyer so I could make people's lives better and the 60+ clinic has given me the ability to do just that.”
When she was a member of the Law Review, Hergert enjoyed honing her writing and editing skills and helping determine what articles Law Review would publish.
“It was so cool to help make decisions on what content would be published in an issue that's going out into the world permanently,” she says. “In my final term on the law review, I was one member of an all-female board—serving on that board was an amazing experience. I've never worked on a more supportive, confident, or driven team and I made friends I hope to keep for a very long time.”
As a teaching assistant for Contracts I and II for more than two years, Hergert has worked with most of the current Cooley students.
“It's a great opportunity to pass on some of the skills I've developed in law school to the next group of students—and there's the added benefit of knowing contracts inside and out when I start studying for the bar,” she says.
She also enjoys mentoring 1L students and helping them have a positive experience as they transition into the law school lifestyle.
“Law school is very hard—there's no way to sugarcoat it. Nothing can really prepare you for that transition,” she says.
“But as a student mentor, I was able to help students learn how to make that transition and give the advice I wish I’d been given.”
Hergert remembers working with other mentors to help a student who was overwhelmed by coursework.
“He had fallen behind and wanted to get back on track but wasn't sure where to start,” she says. “We worked with him to make a list of what order to tackle his assignments based on urgency and deadlines and helped him with a calendar for the next week that showed exactly how he would spend each one of his hours. I'm happy to report he caught up and has gone on to be a successful student.”
Passionate about environmental issues, Hergert would like to pursue that field in her legal career, and this term is externing at Fausone Bohn in Northville, focusing on environmental law.
“I'm excited to see what new skills I can master,” she says. “I’m passionate about preserving our natural environment, especially when it comes to water. I can't wait until I can start using my legal career to help protect our natural resources as well. In my eyes, there is a lot more that could be done from a policy standpoint to protect the environment. And most policy comes too late. We need to start protecting things before disaster strikes.”
The COVID-19 pandemic was an unusual time for Hergert, who got married on April 18, 2020, with 10 people in attendance and a "drive by" reception from friends and family.
“In a way, we were very lucky because we both went from working a ton of hours away from home to being home together all the time and it was a wonderful way to spend the first year of our marriage,” she says. “I did, however, find remote classes very challenging. It’s very difficult to pay attention to someone who's talking to you on a screen and the interaction between students and the professors basically stopped once we went online.
“I also didn't like taking tests remotely. I’m someone who doesn’t usually get test anxiety but my test anxiety went through the roof during this period. A lot of my friends piled on classes while we were remote and I actually stayed part-time and continued working full-time because I wanted to try and take classes in person.”
A native of Davisburg in Oakland County, Hergert now makes her home in Fenton, near Flint, with her husband and baby daughter. In her leisure time, she enjoys reading, especially fantasy novels; and playing the violin.
“I played the violin for most of my childhood and also played in the school orchestra during undergrad,” she says. “Every couple years I head back up to Michigan Tech to play with the orchestra in an alumni concert and it's the best time. Playing an instrument alone can be a lot of fun, but the beauty of what you can do with an entire ensemble is simply breathtaking.”
A major passion is travel, including being an international summer school student at King’s College London in the U.K. during undergrad, where her favorite tourist activity in London was climbing to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral.
“Everyone goes on the London Eye but St. Paul's is the real deal,” she says. “My favorite part about studying in London was realizing how similar I was to the other students I studied with from all over the world. We think people in places from far away are so different from us, and in some ways that's true. The other students spoke different languages, ate different foods, and had very different lifestyles than me. But I had lunch with a group of girls from my program every day and we realized we had more in common than we had differences. We all had goals we wanted to achieve, we all loved our families and wanted to keep them safe, we all wanted to make the world a better place. Really, for all the things that matter, we were exactly the same.
“After studying abroad and realizing how much you can learn about the world simply through travel, I've been travelling as much as I can,” she adds. “It's something my husband and I enjoy doing together and can't wait to start sharing with our daughter.”
Cooley Law School 3L student Krysten Hergert studied in the U.K. during undergrad and is pictured at the famous Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain.
This article about Cooley Law School student Krysten Hergert was written by Legal News writer Sheila Pursglove originally published by the Legal News on February 1, 2023. Reprinted with permission of The Detroit Legal News. Photo courtesy of Krysten Hergert.