Energy Career Profile: Environmental Lawyer

The world of energy seeps into almost every other discipline you could think of. One notable crossover is that between the energy industry and the legal sphere. This is a blessing for those who are interested in both energy and the law. You don’t need to choose between the two fields, you can simply combine them to make the career of your dreams. And you better believe it is one of the most interesting kinds of law you can sink your teeth into at the moment.

In this article we will take a look at what an environmental lawyer does and show you how important the role is. With new environmental regulations and legislation being enacted on almost a daily basis, lawyers are essential to navigate through these new legal obligations.

Basics of the Job

There are all kinds of different laws that relate to the environment. Some are quite obvious and include rules that dictate where oil and gas companies can operate and what kind of compliance is expected from them. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. From corporate mergers and acquisitions to criminal dealings and fraud, the law permeates all areas of the environmental and energy industries.

As an environmental lawyer you will be responsible for interpreting legislation and making sure the law is followed to the letter. You will advocate on behalf of clients, which could be big energy firms, government bodies or even disgruntled individuals who don’t want an oil well to be drilled right in their backyards. It would take pages and pages to detail every type of work an environmental lawyer could get involved with. Suffice to say the job is wonderfully varied.

Job Duties

An environmental lawyer will combine its knowledge of the environment and of the law to give valuable advice to its clients. You will spend time in the library reading through previous cases to find precedents to support your client’s cause. You will form coherent arguments to present to a judge to ensure your client’s success in litigation. You will also assist on regulatory compliance and transactional work.

You will need to spend time examining sites in order to gather evidence for trials or to show officials that you are complying with regulations. You may also need to obtain witness statements to further your client’s case. As environmental law is new and constantly changing, you will also be in charge of keeping abreast any updates in relevant legislation and conveying any important changes to your client.

Where You Will Work

Virtually every large organisation will need the help of an environment lawyer at some point so geographically you have virtually nothing by way of constraints. It is important to note, however, that the law is different in each country. So, if you move to another country you may need to take an exam or two to requalify in that country. You will spend time in the field collecting evidence, and in the office writing up trial documentation and legal briefs. You may also be required to travel to conferences to give presentations or receive training.

Who to Work For

The most obvious place for an environmental lawyer to find employment is with a law firm. There are some law firms that specialise in environmental law and some that have it as one of their many departments. It will be up to you to decide what suits you best. Alternatively, you can work for an environmental consulting firm, and NGO, or in-house for an energy company. There are also positions within government bodies and research institutions.