Green Careers Guide

Environmental Lawyer

An environmental lawyer is an attorney that focuses on litigation having to do with a broad range of environmental concerns. Examples include air and water quality, climate change, wildlife protection and biodiversity, and chemicals and pesticides.

The career outlook for an environmental lawyer is keen. They make on average $60-$103 thousand a year.

An environmental attorney may also deal with issues like environmental impact planning, and sustainable growth and development. An environmental lawyer often works with the general public affected by environmental issues in individual litigation or class action lawsuits, or may work for government agencies, corporations, or non-profit organizations.

Environmental lawyers use legal skill and training to develop policies and engage in litigation that prevents environmental damage, results in environmental clean-up, or compensates people for harm they have suffered as a result of environmental contamination. Environmental attorneys play a key role in the system of checks and balances to prevent government and big business from engaging in practices that undermine the natural environment, and harm people in the process. Examples of cases handled by an environmental attorney include cases involving toxic mold in homes, builder negligence, illnesses resulting from companies' negligence or willful contamination of water and air, and litigation against the government to clarify or compel environmental regulation.

Environmental law combines knowledge in law and legal procedures with knowledge and passion for environmental concerns. If you enjoy engaging in research and writing, public speaking and debate, and working with clients one-on-one to address environmental concerns, then you may enjoy a career as an environmental lawyer. An environmental attorney must also be good at processing and synthesizing new information, and must have a solid background in understanding environmental concerns.

To work as an environmental lawyer, you'll need to first complete undergraduate studies, followed by an accredited law degree. Typically, a bachelor's degree is completed in four years, followed by three years of law school. In most cases, admission to law school is not dependent on what you study at the baccalaureate level. Consider a bachelor's degree in ecology or environmental science as preparation for a career in environmental law. You may also want to minor in or take courses in political science and government. In some cases, you can earn a master's degree alongside a law degree. A master's degree in planning, development, ecology, environmental studies, or a related field makes an excellent adjunct to a law degree if you plan to build a career in environmental law.

Environmental Lawyer Resources

*Environmental Law in a Nutshell (Nutshell Series)
*Environmental Law and Policy, (Concepts & Insights Series) (Concepts and Insights Series)
*Environmental Law (6th Edition)
*Environmental Law and Policy: Nature, Law, and Society

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