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Best Industries and Fields for Environmental Law Jobs

November 20, 2020
environmental law advocate gives presentation in conference room

Environmental law jobs staffed by adept, knowledgeable and decisive professionals have never been more important. As the complex mechanisms of our society learn to work together to preserve our fragile and changing ecosystem, evolving environmental regulations impact numerous industries and fields across both the private and public sectors.

Crucially, the jobs created to address the environmental legal framework in the U.S. are not limited to attorney roles, and many are available to professionals who do not have a J.D. but still understand the structure and demands of the relevant regulations. Read our list of the best industries and fields in which to launch your environmental law career and see where an enhanced legal knowledge base and skill set can take you.

Government Agencies

There’s no better place to start exploring environmental law jobs than the agencies responsible for interpreting and administering them. The day-to-day functions of organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Departments of Energy and the Interior all are intertwined with environmental policy and regulation. Consequently, they are constantly in search of professionals with deep knowledge of the relevant legal frameworks to help them carry out their responsibilities.

The EPA, for instance, maintains a vast workforce of legal professionals across an Office of General Counsel, Office of Inspector General, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Office of Administrative Law Judges, and ten Offices of Regional Counsel distributed across the U.S.1 While many of the roles in these offices are for attorneys with specialized expertise in environmental law, they each also require a full support staff of legally knowledgeable professionals to ensure they operate smoothly and efficiently. Explore job postings on the websites of agencies like these to help you find opportunities for federal roles.

Advocacy Groups

Comprehensive knowledge of the myriad environmental laws in the U.S. is also of utmost importance for employees of advocacy groups across the political spectrum and with a diverse set of goals and focuses. Whether you seek to work for a group focused on protecting the environment such as the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society or the Environmental Defense Fund, or you intent to advocate for policy changes on behalf of a regulated company or industry, you will need to develop a thorough understanding of the legal parameters that influence your goals and strategies.

The Sierra Club, for instance, hires campaign coordinators and representatives to advocate for regionally specific causes across the country, specialists in targeted areas of environmental law like water resources law and clean energy policy, and more generalized legal assistant roles.2 While these roles do not require a J.D., the most successful candidates for them will be able to step in on day one with the confidence that only comes from concerted training in environmental law.

Energy Industries

Companies across the energy industries are deeply familiar with environmental regulations, and their operations depend on the work of savvy legal professionals to ensure their compliance with the complex frameworks that govern them. Regulations relevant to these industries cover everything from emissions caps and clean water standards to permissible extraction areas and evolving clean energy laws.

Job sites like Indeed and LinkedIn can be great resources for seeking out environmental law jobs for non-lawyers in the energy industries. You may even be able to find targeted boards on sites like these that list legally focused jobs for non-lawyers.3 Take a look at the opportunities out there and consider whether you may benefit from enhanced legal training to qualify for them.

Construction Management and Development

Any company that performs clearing, grading excavation, demolition or construction activities are responsible for adhering to stringent federal environmental regulations.4 If you work in the construction or development industry, you are likely keenly aware that failure to plan meticulously for compliance with these regulations can be extremely costly in terms of both money and time, and can even jeopardize the completion of entire projects.

Building a comprehensive set of knowledge of the specific regulations that are likely to intervene in projects in your region can make you a vital asset to a construction or development company. Some specific functions that can benefit from having someone with this expertise on hand within a construction or development company are in the pre-project planning stage when licenses and permits for construction must be acquired, during construction to ensure ongoing compliance with waste disposal and other areas of regulated concern, and after construction if the company finds itself in the unfortunate position of facing litigation.5

State or Local Government

Many of the entities that are subject to federal environmental regulation are owned and operated by either state governments or municipalities. Consequently, these governments and their various agencies are often responsible for ensuring compliance to federal law and maintaining facilities like drinking water reservoirs and sanitation plants to the standards set by current regulations.

Since 2017, the balance of responsibility has tipped even further in the direction of state and local government agencies as the Trump Administration has deprioritized enforcement by the EPA.6 That means there may be increased opportunities for you to find an environmental law job with the government in your local area. If you are committed to upholding the legal mechanisms designed to protect our environment and you are seeking an opportunity to work on the frontlines of some of these challenging issues, local government may be the right path for you.

Prepare for a Rewarding Environmental Law Career at Tulane Law School

Job opportunities abound for non-lawyers with deep knowledge of environmental law, and Tulane University Law School is committed to providing the comprehensive legal training these professionals need. Explore the online Master of Jurisprudence in Environmental Law program and find out how a master’s degree program built in the environmentally rich Gulf Coast region is uniquely positioned to help you engage with the complexity of environmental regulations and concerns across the nation and the globe. Learn from a faculty of true subject-matter experts discover the impact their experience can have on your career.

  1. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from epa.gov/careers/legal-careers-epa
  2. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from sierraclub.org/careers-jobs-employment
  3. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from indeed.com/q-Environmental-Law-For-Non-Lawyers-jobs.html
  4. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from cem.va.gov/cem/pdf/fedreqs.pdf
  5. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from levelset.com/blog/construction-law/
  6. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from urbanaffairsreview.com/2019/02/15/citizen-partisanship-local-government-and-environmental-policy-implementation/