Guide to Environmental Lawyer: What It Is, What It Involves, and How to Pursue Environmental Lawyer as a Career

Environmental advocacy

If you are passionate about protecting the environment and the health of people and their property from environmental risks, you might be interested in becoming an environmental lawyer. Learn what environmental law is, what environmental lawyers do, how to become one, and what are the benefits and challenges of this career.

What is an Environmental Lawyer?

An environmental lawyer is a legal professional who:

  • Specializes in environmental law, which is a set of laws and regulations that aim to safeguard the environment and the health of people and their property from environmental risks.
  • Works with various clients, such as individuals, businesses, government agencies, or non-profit organizations, and advises them on legal issues pertaining to the environment, such as pollution, contamination, renewable energy, sustainability, climate change, natural resources, land use, and waste management.
  • Represents their clients in court, gathers evidence, offers strategies, interprets laws, assists with risk assessment, helps create new policies, or works to reform the law.
  • May specialize in different areas of environmental law, such as clean technology, water law, climate change law, land use law, environmental rights law, international environmental law, law of the sea, or international resources law.

What Does an Environmental Lawyer Do?

An environmental lawyer may work with various clients, such as individuals, businesses, government agencies, or non-profit organizations, and may advise them on legal issues pertaining to the environment, such as pollution, contamination, renewable energy, sustainability, climate change, natural resources, land use, and waste management. An environmental lawyer may also represent their clients in court, gather evidence, offer strategies, interpret laws, assist with risk assessment, help create new policies, or work to reform the law. An environmental lawyer may specialize in different areas of environmental law, such as:

  • Clean technology: This involves developing and implementing innovative solutions for reducing environmental impact and enhancing efficiency.
  • Water law: This involves managing and protecting water resources and resolving disputes over water rights and usage.
  • Climate change law: This involves addressing the causes and consequences of global warming and adapting to its effects.
  • Land use law: This involves regulating how land is used and developed and balancing competing interests such as conservation, development, agriculture, and recreation.
  • Environmental rights law: This involves protecting the rights of people and communities to a healthy and safe environment.
  • International environmental law: This involves dealing with transboundary environmental issues and cooperating with other countries and organizations on environmental matters.
  • Law of the sea: This involves regulating the use and exploitation of marine resources and resolving maritime disputes.
  • International resources law: This involves managing and sharing natural resources such as minerals, oil, gas, timber, and wildlife.

How to Become an Environmental Lawyer?

To become an environmental lawyer, you need to follow these steps:

  • Complete a bachelor’s degree: You can choose any major that interests you and develops your skills in writing, reading, analysis, research, and problem-solving. But, some majors that are relevant for environmental law are environmental science, biology, chemistry, engineering, economics, political science, or sociology.
  • Take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE): These are standardized tests that measure your aptitude for law school. You need to prepare well for these tests and score high to increase your chances of getting admitted to a reputable law school.
  • Apply to accredited law schools: You need to research the admission requirements and preferences of the law schools you want to apply to. You also need to submit your transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement, resume, and test scores along with your application.
  • Earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree: This is a three-year professional degree that provides you with a comprehensive education in legal theory and practice. You need to take courses in various areas of law such as constitutional law, contracts, torts, property, criminal law, civil procedure, evidence, ethics, and legal writing. You also need to choose electives that focus on environmental law topics such as environmental regulation, natural resources law, climate change law, or international environmental law.
  • Pass the bar exam: This is a state-specific exam that tests your knowledge and skills in various areas of law. You need to pass this exam to obtain a license to practice law in your state.
  • Get enrolled with the bar council: This is a professional association that regulates the legal profession in your state. You need to register with the bar council to become a member of the legal community and access its resources and benefits.
  • Gain experience in environmental law: You can do this by working as an associate at a law firm that specializes in environmental law or by joining a government agency or a non-profit organization that deals with environmental issues. You can also pursue further education by earning a Master of Laws (LLM) or a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) degree in environmental law.

What are the Benefits of Being an Environmental Lawyer?

Being an environmental lawyer can be rewarding. Some of the benefits of this career are:

  • Make a positive difference in the world by protecting the environment and promoting social justice.
  • Work on diverse and interesting cases that involve complex legal issues and scientific facts.
  • Earn a high income depending on your experience, skills, and reputation.
  • Can have opportunities for professional growth and development by specializing in different areas of environmental law or pursuing further education.

What are the Challenges of Being an Environmental Lawyer?

Being an environmental lawyer can be challenging. Some of the challenges of this career are:

  • Have to deal with high-pressure situations and deadlines that require long hours and hard work.
  • Have to face ethical dilemmas and conflicts of interest that arise from representing different clients and interests.
  • Have to cope with the emotional stress and frustration that come from witnessing environmental harm and injustice.
  • Have to keep up with the changing laws and regulations that affect the environment and the legal profession.

What are the best majors to be an environmental lawyer?

There is no specific undergraduate degree required to become an environmental lawyer.But, some majors that can enhance your knowledge on a variety of environmental issues are:

  • Political science
  • Public policy
  • Environmental studies
  • Economics
  • Environmental science
  • Earth sciences

You will also need to attend law school and pass the bar exam to practice environmental law.

What are the skills and qualities of an environmental lawyer?

Some of the skills and qualities that an environmental lawyer should have are:

  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to conduct thorough research and gather evidence
  • Ability to draft legal documents and correspondence
  • Ability to present arguments and evidence in court
  • Knowledge of environmental laws and regulations
  • Passion for environmental issues and advocacy
  • Experience in collaborating with diverse groups of clients and stakeholders

What is the scope of an environmental lawyer’s work?

The scope of an environmental lawyer’s work may vary depending on the place of employment, the practice area, and the type of case or project. Some of the common tasks and activities that an environmental lawyer may perform are:

  • Drafting legal documents and correspondence: Such as contracts, agreements, permits, licenses, petitions, complaints, briefs, motions, or memoranda.
  • Acquiring evidence for the court through research and interviews: Such as reviewing documents, statutes, regulations, case law, scientific reports, or expert opinions.
  • Presenting evidence in court cases regarding environmental issues: Such as arguing motions, examining witnesses, cross-examining opponents, or making closing statements.
  • Providing legal guidance, Advice and counsel to clients: Such as explaining the legal rights and obligations, evaluating the risks and benefits, or recommending the best course of action.
  • Negotiating settlements or agreements with other parties, Such as mediating disputes, resolving conflicts, or reaching compromises.
  • Advocating for environmental causes or public interest: Such as lobbying policymakers, campaigning for reforms, educating the public, or filing lawsuits.

What are the environmental law career resources?

Environmental law career resources are the sources of information or assistance that can help an environmental lawyer to pursue their career goals. They may include websites, books, journals, newsletters, podcasts, blogs, or events.

  • Websites: These are online platforms that provide information on environmental law careers, such as job listings, salary data, employer profiles, career advice, or networking opportunities. Some examples are Environmental Law Institute (ELI), Environmental Law Network (ELN), Environmental Career Center (ECC), or Environmental Law Careers (ELC).
  • Books: These are publications that provide insights or guidance on environmental law careers, such as career paths, practice areas, skills development, or case studies. Some examples are Careers in Environmental Law by Ned Helme and Robert Fischman; The Practice and Policy of Environmental Law by John Copeland Nagle et al.; or The Environmental Law Handbook by Thomas F.P. Sullivan et al.
  • Journals: These are academic publications that provide research or analysis on various topics and aspects of environmental law. They may help an environmental lawyer to stay updated on the current trends and developments in their field of practice. Some examples are Harvard Environmental Law Review; Yale Journal on Regulation; Stanford Environmental Law Journal; or Columbia Journal of Environmental Law.
  • Newsletters: These are periodic publications that provide news or updates on environmental law issues or events. They may help an environmental lawyer to keep informed on the latest happenings or opportunities in their field of practice. Some examples are ELI Weekly Newsletter; ABA SEER News & Developments; NRDC GreenLaw; or EDF Climate 411.
  • Podcasts: These are audio programs that provide interviews or discussions on environmental law topics or stories. They may help an environmental lawyer to learn from the experiences or perspectives of other professionals in their field of practice. Some examples are Our Planet Our Business; Planet Lex; Resources Radio; or The Green Dreamer Podcast.
  • Blogs: These are online platforms that provide opinions or commentary on environmental law issues or cases. They may help an environmental lawyer to engage with the views or arguments of other experts or practitioners in their field of practice. Some examples are Legal Planet; Environmental Law Prof Blog; Climate Law Blog; or Earthjustice Blog.
  • Events: These are occasions that provide opportunities for learning or networking on environmental law matters. They may include seminars, workshops, webinars, conferences, or competitions. They may help an environmental lawyer to enhance their knowledge or skills or connect with peers or mentors in their field of practice. Some examples are ELI Events; ABA SEER Events; NAELS Annual Conference; or National Environmental Moot Court Competition.

An environmental lawyer is a legal professional who specializes in environmental law, which is a set of laws and regulations that aim to safeguard the environment and the health of people and their property from environmental risks. An environmental lawyer may work with various clients, such as individuals, businesses, government agencies, or non-profit organizations, and may advise them on legal issues pertaining to the environment, such as pollution, contamination, renewable energy, sustainability, climate change, natural resources, land use, and waste management. An environmental lawyer may also represent their clients in court, gather evidence, offer strategies, interpret laws, assist with risk assessment, help create new policies, or work to reform the law. An environmental lawyer may specialize in different areas of environmental law.

To become an environmental lawyer, you need to complete a bachelor’s degree, take the LSAT or the GRE, apply to accredited law schools, earn a JD degree, pass the bar exam, get enrolled with the bar council, and gain experience in environmental law. Being an environmental lawyer can be rewarding and challenging at the same time.

If you are interested in pursuing a career as an environmental lawyer, you should research the admission requirements and preferences of the law schools you want to apply to. You should also consult with your academic advisor, professors, mentors, or peers who have experience in environmental law or related fields. They can offer you valuable guidance and advice on choosing the right major for you.

Published By: Sixsense Digital Corporation


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