UM Student Follows Dream of Becoming Environmental Lawyer

Anna Belinski will realize her dream of becoming an environmental lawyer when she graduates from UM’s Alexander Blewett III School of Law on May 18. (UM photo by Tommy Martino)

By Phil Stempin, UM News Service

MISSOULA ­– Anna Belinski’s passion for the environment started as a child growing up in Aspen, Colorado. After completing her undergraduate degree, she searched for the best law schools in the nation to further her dream of protecting the environment.

After comparing and researching schools with the best environmental law programs, the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana was her top choice.

“This was the place for me,” said Belinski. “We have the resources of a top-10 school, but the cost is half as much and the location lets you enjoy life while studying. This is the premier choice for school if you want to be an environmental lawyer.”

The National Jurist recently gave UM an A+ score for environmental law, and U.S. News and World Report ranked Montana’s Law School at No. 42 for environmental law programs.

Belinski worked at UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station in the summer after her first year of law school. It was on the shores of Flathead Lake where she began focusing on international environmental law and bilateral treaties surrounding pollution. Specifically, Belinski researched heavy metal runoffs from Canadian mining operations into Montana’s rivers and lakes.

“I knew the program at Montana’s Law School was top-notch,” Belinski said. “But I didn’t know how many opportunities to work on environmental issues I would have while in school. It’s been really amazing.”

After writing a paper on transboundary environmental pollution and publishing her case note for the Public Land and Resources Law Review on rights of nature in Federal Indian law, Belinski started being regarded as a thought leader within the environmental space. This path took her to the other side of the world.

“I was invited to speak at COP28 [the UN climate change conference], which took place in the United Arab Emirates,” said Belinski. “It was awe-inspiring to be there and to be regarded as an expert in something I am passionate about, especially at the international level.”

Belinski was invited to attend COP 28 with Global Choices, where she works as a legal researcher helping draft international policy regarding the Arctic Ocean.

“I am working with colleagues at Cambridge to write policy and negotiate with countries that border the central Arctic Ocean,” Belinski said. “It is so unique to get a chance to be involved with environmental law and policy at this level, all while I’m still in school.”

Belinski is helping to write a moratorium on activity in the central Arctic Ocean. Global Choices is calling for a stop to nuclear testing, mining exploration, transpolar shipping and other exploitative activities until studies can be completed on this fragile ecosystem. So far the policies have been well received.

Belinski will graduate during UM’s law Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18. Looking back, she knows she made the right decision coming to Montana.

“Law school has been very difficult, but also satisfying,” said Belinski. “When I look back over the past three years, I’ve accomplished a lot. Eighteen-year-old me would be very proud of where I am today.”


Contact: Phil Stempin, director of events, marketing and communications, UM Alexander Blewett III School of Law, 406-243-6509,