What is Environmental Law?
Beginning 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 practices may focus on water, land and or air protection, hazardous waste disposal, climate change, natural resources, energy, agriculture, real estate, and insurance, to name just a few areas. Environmental law practitioners are found in all sectors: private law firms, in-house counsel for corporations, public interest and advocacy groups, and all levels of federal, state, and local governments. Environmental lawyers also practice in the Judge Advocate General Corps.
In the United States, the chief federal government agency for administering environmental regulation is the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, but many other federal agencies have jurisdiction over environmental matters, such as the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice and the Department of Energy. Many states have their own enforcement agencies.
What do environmental lawyers do?
In private practice, attorneys represent businesses, corporations and industries subject to federal, state and local regulations. In-house corporate attorneys advise their client on a wide range of issues, including compliance, tax, securities and real property matters. Attorneys with federal and state legislatures provide counsel on drafting policy, and lobbyists inform their clients of pending legislation and advocate on behalf of their clients. Public interest attorneys work for advocacy organizations, community groups and others.
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. An appetite for detail can be an asset.
Environmental Law Resources
Relevant Bar Associations
- American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and Resources
- American Bar Association Section of Science &Technology Law: Cleantech and Climate Change Committee
- The State Bar of California Environmental Law Section
- Energy Bar Association
Helpful Environmental Law Websites
- Canadian Environmental Law Association
- Center for International Environmental Law
- Environmental Law Institute
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Yale Environmental Law Guide
- DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment
- Food and Water Watch
- Search the NALP Directory of Legal Employers for private law firms
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
- US House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources
- US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
- US Environmental Protection Agency