Corps Values

Amy Manzelli brings a love of the environment and her Peace Corps can-do attitude to the law

Published in 2009 New England Rising Stars — November 2009

Amy Manzelli can’t remember a time when she didn’t feel closely connected to the outdoors—and environmental issues. As a child growing up on Massachusetts’ South Shore, she spent hours roaming the nearby woods and cranberry bogs. Her father, a teacher during the school year, was a fisherman and lobsterman in the summer, and Manzelli spent many days with him out on the boat.

But when her younger sister was diagnosed with skin cancer and Manzelli wondered if it had been caused by the family’s proximity to the local nuclear power plant, her love of the outdoors turned into environmental advocacy. “For my senior physics project, I did an experiment looking at prevailing winds from the plant—whether it blew where we grew up or fished. I was trying to show a connection,” she says.

At the time, though, that type of information wasn’t available—and it frustrated her. “I was a young teenager, and I wasn’t savvy enough to get the information,” says Manzelli. “It’s not like I said: I’m going to be a lawyer. I’m going to practice environmental law. But it definitely put a stamp on me.”

In college at the University of New Hampshire, Manzelli followed her interests, graduating with a B.A. in Spanish and a B.S. in environmental conservation. Her senior project, a policy audit of the Soucook River, investigated the network of laws—federal, state and local—that affected the waterway. “The project pointed out to me that I just didn’t get the law,” Manzelli says. She was determined to change that.

First, though, Manzelli and husband Chad Turmelle spent two years on an island in the South Pacific as Peace Corps volunteers, where they taught community education classes on everything from ventilated pit toilets to religions of the world. Manzelli was the first person to take the LSAT in Vanuatu—and wound up trying to take it twice when the first test got lost in the mail. (In a country with no paved roads, plumbing, refrigeration or Internet, just figuring out what had happened to the test involved multiple trips to the local provincial capital, each with hours of hiking, boat rides and truck rides.)

When the couple returned home, she entered Vermont Law School, which is known for its environmental program. After graduation she accepted a job at Sulloway & Hollis in the firm’s Concord office. 

“We don’t have an established environmental law practice staffed with senior attorneys,” says Peter Imse, one of the senior members of the firm’s real estate group. “[Amy] is creating a practice rather than inheriting one from someone else.”

Today, Manzelli’s practice is broad, involving litigation and transactions related to land use and real estate matters. She takes as clients both people looking to develop land and people trying to oppose certain development. “More people than I expected really want to do the right thing,” she says. “They want to comply with the law—they just really and truly don’t know what to do.”

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