Environmental law provides frameworks and tools for protection, conservation, and sustainable use of the environment and natural resources.
Since the enactment of numerous federal environmental laws in the 1970s, the environmental law field has grown by leaps and bounds, becoming part of virtually all practice areas. Attorneys in domestic and/or international practice may focus on water, land use, pollution, hazardous wastes, climate change, energy, wildlife, genetic resources or marine conservation, to name just a few. Environmental law practitioners are found in all sectors: private law firms, in-house counsel for corporations, public interest and advocacy groups, think tanks, international NGOs and IGOs, and all levels of federal, state and local governments.
In the United States, the chief federal government agency for administering environmental regulation is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but many other federal agencies have jurisdiction over environmental matters, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Many states have their own enforcement agencies as well.
WHAT DO ENVIRONMENTAL LAWYERS DO?
An environmental lawyer in private practice works to represent clients in legal issues such as complying with environmental regulations, investigating and negotiating over environmental liabilities in corporate transactions,managing land subject to native title, and setting up climate finance deals to back renewable energy. Environment laws are a large and complex specialty within the practice of law. Those interested in this area can expect their practice to have a heavy administrative law component, as many of the applicable rules are regulations passed by federal and state agencies.
Attorneys that work for federal agencies may either defend agency actions under environmental regulations or bring enforcement actions pursuant to environmental laws. Attorneys with federal and state legislatures provide counsel on drafting policy, whereas lobbyists advise their clients of pending legislation and advocate on behalf of their clients. In-house corporate attorneys advice their company on a wide range of issues, including compliance, tax, securities and real property matters.
Public interest attorneys work for non-profit organizations, community groups, and environmental justice coalitions. They may support development of new local, state or federal laws or regulations, participate in international negotiations, or bring lawsuits on behalf of individuals or communities impacted by environmental harm.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW?
Georgetown Law Courses
- Environmental Law
- International Environmental Law
- Energy Law and Policy
- Natural Resources Law
- Land Use Law
Read more about our environmental law curriculum here: https://curriculum.law.georgetown.edu/jd/environmental-law/
Georgetown Law Clinics and Centers
- Georgetown Climate Center
- Environmental Law & Justice Clinic
- The Policy Clinic (Harrison Institute): Community Equity, Food & Health, Worker Rights, and Climate & Trade
Helpful Environmental Law Resources
- Conservation Job Board
- Josh’s Water Jobs
- IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law Early Career Specialist Group
- Environmental Law Institute
- Southern Environmental Law Center
- Beveridge & Diamond
- US Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division (DOJ ENRD)
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- US House Committee on Natural Resources
- US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works