With an increased emphasis on sustainability, becoming an environmental attorney could be a wise choice, and the need continues to rise; but what does that mean for someone pursuing this career field? Here are some things to consider before you decide:
Where do you begin?
As an undergraduate student, you can earn a Bachelor of Laws; or it may be even more advisable to get a degree in Environmental Science. The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is required for admission into law school and is usually taken during your junior year of college. Law school typically takes three full years of study. In the early semesters of law school, your focus will be on general law information; but as the basics are completed, you will focus more on courses specific to the environment, such as water, energy, land use, and the oceans.
Most schools will require that you also participate in an internship, and you may be required to perform some pro bono work as well. Upon completion of your studies, you will earn a JD or Juris Doctor degree. Then you will take the bar exam to become a licensed attorney. Once you are licensed, a Master of Law, with an emphasis on environmental law, would be a great benefit to your career as it allows you to specialize even further. This degree can be earned concurrently with your law school classes, straight out of law school before starting to work, or it can be completed one course at a time while you begin your career.
What will you do?
As an environmental attorney, you will assist your clients in navigating complex regulations to remain in compliance. You may also help them fight for needed regulations to safeguard the environment, or fight to eliminate harmful regulations. The need for this specialization is expected to increase over the next decade as we look to become more environmentally friendly and to combat climate change.
One of the key skills you will need to develop throughout your educational career is the ability to persuade in both your written and oral communication. Being able to convince an organization that they need to be more environmentally friendly or a local government that your client’s activities will not result in environmental harm is going to be a key factor in your success as an attorney with a focus on environmental law.
While it is not required to specialize in environmental law while in law school, it is advisable. Whether you work for a non-profit organization, the government, or a private corporation, most employers will prefer that you have an environment specialization or an internship within the environmental law industry. Having these will significantly improve your chances of being hired and, thus, being successful.
How can you specialize?
You can become a utilities lawyer and focus on energy, renewable energy, electricity, communications, or natural gas. As a utilities lawyer, you can represent the regulatory authorities, utilities themselves, consumer advocacy groups, or even individual customers.
Your focus could be just on energy these days. An energy attorney can assist clients in the areas of energy regulation, construction, and the generation of power, including offshore wind as an example.
As an environmental lawyer, you will be able to contribute to the protection and conservation of the earth’s natural resources and all its inhabitants. Protecting humans’ health, preserving the habitats of the animals and insects we all need to survive, and advocating for clean air and water can be a very rewarding professional career choice.
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