Environmental law is a complex body of court decisions, regulations and statutes from the local to international levels. It serves to ensure a balance between the consumption of natural resources and its impact on human health and the environment. While the federal government plays a major role in shaping environmental law, much of it is played out on state and local levels. In particular, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a key law that affects many environmental lawyers in this state, regardless of their specialty.
California leads the nation in developing innovative environmental laws. Located in the lawmaking capital, McGeorge is poised to take advantage of its position. Alumni working in this field say it’s important that students show potential employers they have an interest in environmental law. The Sacramento environmental law community is small, and alumni recommend that students gain access through networking and taking advantage of internships in law firms, government agencies and environmental nonprofit organizations.
Successful environmental lawyers often have worked in the field before law school or have academic degrees, whether undergraduate or advanced, in a science- or environmental-related field. A scientific background can help an attorney decipher complex studies, interview expert witnesses and give an advantage in the job search, although it’s not a requirement. Environmental law offers diverse ways to practice that include advocating in a private firm for resource users such as water districts or farmers, defending government statutes in a private or public interest firm, creating laws that reduce pollution or protect resources, or setting policy.
The regulations and statutes governing environmental law are constantly changing. It is important for attorneys working in this practice area to stay current on the latest developments in the law and how laws are being applied. Good resources to consult include:
- American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
- The Environmental Law Reporter
- The National Law Review — Energy, EPA, Climate & Environmental Law News
- Law360 — Environmental
- Environmental Law News — The official publication of the State Bar of California’s Environmental Law Section