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Alumni Q&A: Gregg Romaine, Environmental Attorney

Gregg Romaine (B.A.'86, Behavioral Science & Law) is trying to improve the environment, one case at a time.

Romaine is an environmental lawyer who's spent more than 20 years working on issues related to contaminated properties, including the redevelopment of "brownfields" - sites that contain or potentially contain hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. After serving as a legal counsel in the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and founding a consulting company that worked on land remediation efforts throughout Indiana, he opened his own practice in 2005. Romaine, who lives in the Indianapolis area, helps clients cope with problems stemming from contaminated properties.

Romaine was at Rutgers Law School when he decided to pursue a career in environmental law. But he says he gained crucial skills that he’s used throughout his life while an undergraduate at UW-Madison majoring in behavioral science and law, the forerunner of the Legal Studies Program.

Romaine has remained connected with the Center for Law, Society, and Justice, donating money and participating in the center’s speed mentoring events for undergraduates. We asked him why he’s stayed in touch, his memories of UW-Madison and more.

Q: When you look back on your career thus far, what was the value of your behavioral science and law degree?
A: I think the most important things I gleaned from my major were the skills of goal setting and problem solving. Behavioral science and law was an interdisciplinary major that allowed me to take courses in almost any department, including the Law School. As a result, I really needed to research the courses and determine the way those courses could blend with my areas of interest.

Q: Is there one particular class or professor that stands out when you think back to your time at UW-Madison?
A: The one professor who stands out the most in my memory was (Professor Emeritus of History) Stanley Kutler. I took his constitutional history course and he always had great sayings that helped you understand what was really going on behind the scene. One saying he used (which I still use to this day) to talk about law and politics was it "all comes down to whose ox is being gored."

Q: Is there one particular experience that you’re most proud of from your career?
A: I think my most gratifying experiences are when a contaminated site is fully remediated and redeveloped for its highest and best use. I worked on a couple of sites that have been turned into parks and trails. I enjoy stopping at those sites and thinking that I had a small part in their redevelopment.

Q: What motivated you to make a gift to the Center for Law, Society, and Justice?
A: I gave to the Center for Law, Society, and Justice simply because I was pleasantly surprised at the effort sustaining my area of study at the university. I was impressed with how much it has grown and what it was doing to contact alumni.

Q: Why do you participate in the center’s speed mentoring events?
A: I am participating in the mentoring events because I wish I had something like this when I was in school. Also, it is interesting to hear from the students about their interests and concerns. I am a father of six and it’s fascinating to hear about the obstacles the younger generation is encountering.

Q: What advice would you give current legal studies and criminal justice students?
A: The best advice for students is to not look at school as a vocational effort, but to learn and experience as many different subject areas as possible and try to discover your real area of interest. I think everyone knows at this point the legal job market is extremely tough - if you decide to go to law school, be prepared to be very creative when it comes time to find a job.