4 Admissions Steps for Aspiring Environmental Lawyers
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has spurred discussion about climate change’s role in exacerbating storms and what, if anything, lawmakers can do to stop global warming.
But there’s a lot more to the practice of environmental law than climate change. Land use, environmental justice, even food and water laws are all encompassed within this broad, interdisciplinary field.
If you want to practice environmental law, consider these four steps before applying.
Solidify your career goals.
While you do not have to commit to a particular practice area to gain admission into law school, clarifying your career objectives can help you find the right program, as well as maximize your experience once admitted.
That you are already interested in environmental law is a great start.
Now envision how you plan to use your law degree after graduation. Do you want to work for governmental entities like the Environmental Protection Agency or Department of Energy? Can you see yourself at a nonprofit doing impact litigation or policy advocacy? Perhaps your ideal job is at a firm, advising clients on compliance, permitting, and transactional work.
Harvard’s “A Trail Guide to Careers in Environmental Law” contains helpful information if you want to know more about environmental law practice.
Look for schools with robust environmental law curricula.
Do not assume every program will offer courses in environmental law. Start by reviewing US News rankings to identify programs that interest you. Then consider which programs will best position you to achieve your career goals.
Review course and clinical offerings. Colorado has courses ranging in topics from Mining and Energy Law to Water Resources, plus a clinic and advanced seminar on Natural Resources Law.
One of the most extensive environmental law programs is at Vermont Law, where you can specialize in several pressing issues, including Agriculture and Food Systems with coursework in topics like Animal Law and Ethics and Global Food Security.
Think beyond coursework.
Courses and clinics are the foundation of your legal studies, but degree certifications, environmental centers, and journals are other important ways to expand your legal training and make yourself more marketable for prospective employers.
Berkeley Law, for example, offers JD students certificates of specialization in Environmental Law or Energy and Clean Technology Law.
For those committed to public interest environmental law, University of Oregon’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center would give you opportunities such as participating in interdisciplinary research.
Florida State’s Journal of Law Use & Environmental Law publishes articles on latest environmental law issues, such as “The “Greening” of the Global Judiciary.” Serving on a journal will refine your editing skills and allow you to engage in a dialogue with leading scholars about their work.
Reflect on how your experiences prepare you for a career in environmental law.
What is the impetus behind your decision to become an environmental lawyer? Your application is valuable forum for introspection as you make this transition in your life.
Use your personal statement to convey to admissions committees why you want to practice environmental law. Discussing relevant experience in environmental work—whether academic, extracurricular, or professional—can increase your credibility.
Demonstrate that you have compelling reasons for going to law school and establish what contributions you could make to their programs. Here are more tips on drafting your personal statement.
In the end, environmental law is not about saving the planet. The planet can survive without us. Environmental law is really about saving ourselves.
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