Environmental Law Career Guide

By Devan Orr
Revised February 2022

Superfund site
Books & Guides

Environmental Law Guide Yale Law School Career Development Office (updated regularly).
This compliation provides a concise description of environmental practice from a number of perspectives: government, nonprofits, law firms, and corporate counsel. Includes narratives from attorneys and interns who have worked in all of these sectors. Also lists a number of Internet resources (including job listing sites) for the prospective environmental lawyer.

Smith, Heather. "How to be an Environmental Lawyer". Sierra (August 22, 2017). 
The author interviewed Claudia Polsky, founder of the UC Berkley's Environmental Law Clinic, about her personal experiences in environmental law and what she feels new and aspiring lawyers should do to begin and further their careers. Gives insight on the practicalities of environmental law practice.

Moore, Lucy. Common Ground on Hostile Turf: Stories from an Environmental Mediator (2013).
The author spent nearly 25 years as an environmental mediator resolving conflicts that appeared utterly intractable. Here, she shares the ten most compelling stories of her career.
GE170 .M635 2013

A Trail Guide to Careers in Environmental Law. Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising, Harvard Law School (2013).
This guide includes overviews of practice areas within the field of environmental law (such as environmental justice, climate change, energy law, and international aspects) and of practice settings (government, public interest, etc.) Peppered throughout are quotes and narratives from Harvard alumni. How to build a track record, tailor your applications, and locate openings in the field are also covered.

Selected Journal Articles

Sanders, Jason and Mary Ellen Ternes. "Different Career Paths in Environmental Law." 25(1) TYL 8 (2020). 
An overview of the possible areas of practice and career opportunities for those interested in environmental law. Highlights some substantive law as well as career expectations.

Cetola, David A.  "The War on Global Warming Creates Career Opportunities."  12(9) Young Lawyer 3 (2008).
The developing international and domestic body of laws on greenhouse gas emissions is creating a large demand for environmental lawyers in new areas: enforcement, emissions trading, and renewable energy investment.

Chatten-Brown, Jan and Douglas Carstens. "Practicing Public Interest Environmental Law in the Private Sector."  May-June 2007 Trends 8.
This brief article discusses the middle road between client-centered practice and government/nonprofit jobs: being a private practitioner who nonetheless works to enforce environmental laws.

Hiller-LaSalle, Deborah.  "The Exciting World of Environmental and Natural Resources Law - Interested in Becoming a Practitioner?" 47(8) Advocate 9 (August 2004).
Although tilted towards future practitioners in the northwest, this short article describes experiences and opportunities in environmental law.

ABA, state, and local bar associations often have special interest sections for attorneys practicing in the field of environmental law. These bar associations and their special sections can be located in the respective bar directories or on bar association websites. A sampling of some environmental organizations and bar sections is listed below.

American Bar Association
Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
Phone: (312) 988-5724
Website: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/environment_energy_resources.html
A national legal association with a special section on environmental law. Offers members opportunities for development, current awareness, and professional discussion.

Animal Legal Defense Fund
Phone: (707) 795-2533
Website: http://www.aldf.org
An association of attorneys and law students; employs litigation as a means to protect all animals, including endangered species, lab animals, and international wildlife.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
Website: http://www.epa.gov
A federal agency that researches environmental issues and provides educational resources to the public. Works extensively with the states and other governmental agencies to develop and enforce environmental agencies. Operates from both its national headquarters as well as from eleven field branches throughout the United States.
Note: many federal agencies, such as the Department of Justice, have an environmental policy/law division.

Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (e-LAW)
1877 Garden Avenue
Eugene, OR 97403
Phone: (541) 687-8454
Website: http://www.elaw.org
Provides legal and scientific tools to public interest lawyers in over 60 countries. Dedicated to strengthening environmental regulations around the world, with specific emphasis on helping low-income countries.

Environmental Law Institute (ELI)
2000 L Street NW, Suite 620
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 939-3800
Website: http://www.eli.org
Launched by the Public Law Education Institute and the Conservation Foundation, ELI conducts and sponsors research on environmental law and policy; maintains a clearinghouse for information regarding environmental law; engages in related educational activities, including conferences, seminar programs, and workshops; conducts environmental law courses with law schools, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. Cosponsors environmental law conferences with the American Bar Association, American Law Institute, and the Smithsonian Institution. Conducts summer and annual internship program for law students.

National Association of Clean Air Agencies
444 N. Capitol St. NW, Ste. 307
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: (202) 624-7864
Website:  http://www.4cleanair.org
The NACAA represents air pollution control agencies in 53 states and territories and over 165 major metropolitan areas across the United States.  Provides a means for members to share air quality related experiences and discuss solutions to problems; encourages communication and cooperation among federal, state, and local regulatory agencies; promotes air pollution control activities.

Virginia Bar Association
Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Law Section
701 East Franklin Street, Suite 1120
Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: (804) 644-0041
Website: http://www.vba.org/?page=environment_energy
Provides information, contacts, and resources to assist attorneys practicing in the widespread substantive areas impacted by federal and state environmental laws.

Photo:  Associated Press