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Recent years' events reflect environmental law is a rapidly evolving area of legal practice. It has traditionally been thought of as an area of law that encompasses the two broad categories of regulation of pollutants and natural resource conservation/ allocation. However, it also touches on energy, agriculture, real estate, and land use, and has expanded to include international environmental governance, corporate law, international trade, environmental justice, sustainable growth and development, food law, and climate change. Environmental law practice often requires extensive knowledge of administrative law as well as aspects of tort law, property law, legislation, constitutional law, and land use law.
Environmental lawyers generally practice one or more of the following kinds of law: regulatory, transactional, litigation, or public policy advocacy. Regulatory lawyers help draft environmental legislation and regulations relating, for example, to waste cleanup, air quality, water quality, coastline management, land use, and other protective measures; they also take part in site inspections, advise clients on compliance with environmental laws and regulations, and provide representation in administrative and rulemaking proceedings related to the development and implementation of environmental policies and procedures. Transactional attorneys help identify the environmental and land use issues involved in a variety of transactions, including the purchases and sale of property and businesses; they often draft agreements, engage in negotiations, assess the costs and risks of decisions that impact the environment or implicate environmental law, and help clients develop solutions to environmental problems that could affect business transactions. Litigating attorneys bring cases on behalf of individuals, groups, or government entities to enforce environmental laws and regulations; they also litigate with insurance carriers for coverage of environmental liabilities and defend against agency enforcement actions as well as toxic tort lawsuits. Other environmental attorneys work at many levels to influence the development of public policy—sometimes focusing on specific issues in an area of the environment, like species protection or water pollution prevention and sometimes focusing on broader issues like sustainable strategies (a set of actionable steps that a company takes to improve their impact on the community and the environment), alternative energy sources, or green initiatives; they frequently engage in organizing and lobbying to affect policy.
Environmental law attracts lawyers who are interested in how we impact the geology and biodiversity of our planet. Environmental law practitioners perform a wide variety of functions, often helping to shape governmental and corporate policies and actions on a national and international level. Since federal statutes drive much of environmental law in the U.S., attorneys often work for or with administrative bodies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, and their state-level equivalents. However, environmental lawyers also work for nonprofit organizations, private law firms, and corporations; many environmental attorneys work in several of these settings during the course of their careers.
For those considering an environmental law career, here are seven facts legal experts say you should know about this field:
For more information, visit https://www.kosnar.com.
Carl J. Kosnar
In-House Counsel/Past Foundation President
Solana Beach ECO Rotary Club Foundation