How do I Become an Environmental Lawyer?

Alexis W.

To become an environmental lawyer, you must first become a licensed lawyer or attorney. You must also obtain experience in environmental law. Environmental lawyers do both transactional and litigation work, so regardless of whether you prefer to speak in front of a court or focus on writing contracts and other legal documents, it is possible for you to become an environmental lawyer.

Legal library.
Legal library.

The first step to become an environmental lawyer involves getting licensed as an attorney. In order to do this within the United States, you need to attend an American Bar Association (ABA) approved law school. In other countries, the process to become a licensed attorney is different, but in every situation, you need to obtain some type of higher education beyond a basic four year college degree in order to become a licensed attorney.

In the U.S., the law school process takes three years if you attend school full time. While there is no specific "environmental law" degree, many law schools offer concentrations or certifications in environmental law. Regardless of whether your law school offers this special program, you will want to take classes that focus on various facets of environmental law during law school if you want to become an environmental lawyer.

Upon graduating from law school, you still are not able to become an environmental lawyer in the U.S. until you pass the Bar Exam. This exam is given on a state-by-state basis, and is a closed book exam in which you demonstrate your familiarity with various points of law. Other countries have their own individual licensing requirements, which are administered on a local or national level that you will have to complete before you can become an environmental lawyer.

After you pass the bar, you can then transition into environmental law by getting a job with a law firm that practices in the area. Environmental law firms do a number of different things. Some of this work is transactional work, which means that the law firm drafts contracts or other legal documents relating to various aspects of environmental protection. Some of the firms specialize in litigation, which means the law firm sues in court to protect the environment.

Environmental lawyers may work for the public interest and file lawsuits if an individual or company violates Environmental Protection Agency laws. Such lawyers may also work for individuals or private companies who were damaged by someone's illegal actions towards the environment. Others may work for companies to help the company ensure compliance with environmental regulation.

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