Environmental law is one of the broadest areas of law you could imagine, and the best environmental law schools may cover the topic in dozens of courses from Administrative Law to International Law to–you guessed it–Environmental Law. It’s a blanket term that covers laws that have any kind of impact on human interactions with the environment.
When people think of a career as an environmental lawyer, they often assume it means working for the government (the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, National Park Service, etc…) or one of the myriad environmental non-profits like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Riverkeeper, Greenpeace, Earthjustice…the list goes on and on. What many don’t realize is that there are also numerous private law firms that specialize in environmental law issues, some of which may provide careers just as lucrative as working in areas like IP law or corporate litigation. So, while there are many tireless crusaders fighting for the environment and making pennies to the dollar compared to attorneys at the big firms, that’s not the only path for a person interested in environmental law. In fact, if you absolutely hate nature, love global warming, and want to invest in Midwestern properties that you’re sure will soon be oceanfront, then you could even study environmental law as a way to defend the big, bad corporate polluters of the world. Please don’t do that. 😉
So, which are the best environmental law schools in the US?
1. Vermont Law School
Coming in at number one is Vermont Law School. They run the “Environmental Law Center (ELC).” In the ELC students and faculty work together to try and solve a lot of the issues surrounding environmental law. It’s a pretty unique program, and definitely worth a look. The school also offers a ton of environmental law classes and several clinics as well.
2. Lewis and Clark College School of Law
Lewis and Clark is also top notch. They have a very large environmental law program which includes a specialized environmental law J.D. and LLM. The school also offers environmental clinics, a summer program, and various opportunities for students to go abroad, to places like India, to get first-hand experience in global, environmental law issues.
3. Pace University
Pace’s environmental law program has been around since 1978. They offer students lots of resources, from over 40 environmental law classes, as well as local and international internships and externships. Additionally, they have the Global Center for Environmental Studies, a center that works with international organizations to address global environmental issues; the Energy and Climate Center, where students and faculty alike try to help influence environmental laws through research and collaboration with government agencies; and the Land Use Law Center, which is dedicated to helping local communities create sustainable communities.
4. University of California Law School
Cal Law School in Berkeley, California, offers a great smattering of environmental law classes. They also offer students the ability to perform research along with faculty members through its Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment. They also have a great environmental law clinic that opened up last year.