It may be a competitive field to break into, but the job market for environmental and energy lawyers is looking up.
“The environmental law job market has significantly improved over the past few years as government agencies and nonprofits, in particular, have begun hiring again,” said Pace University School of Law professor Jason Czarnezki, who directs the school’s environmental law programs. “New environmental lawyers are needed to handle the emergence of renewable energy programs, climate regulation and food-safety legislation, in addition to more traditional air- and water-quality litigation.”
More than 20 schools offer graduate programs in environmental law, natural resources or energy law. Within these programs, there are focuses on international natural resources, sustainable development, pollution, American water law, LEED certification, protection of living species on land and in water, and more.
Professor Janice Weis, associate dean and director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program at Lewis & Clark Law School, thinks environmental law has been a steady source of employment because of its vast presence on local, state and federal levels.
“As long as the statutes are on the books, lawyers are needed to enforce them, inter- pret them and counsel clients on how to comply with them — everything from clean air, clean water and hazardous waste to en dangered species, forest law and land use,” she said. Though the overall specialization has
had fairly steady employment prospects, demand for sub-specializations such as energy, food and water law tend to fluctuate with the times, she said.
“Water law has been a source of jobs for a long time, especially in arid areas, but with droughts recurring in areas like California, we are seeing an uptick in the need for lawyers to help resolve some of those issues, including re-shaping policy,” Weis said.