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Environmental Law

Beginning in the 1970s, the environmental law field has grown by leaps and bounds, becoming part of virtually all practice areas.

Attorneys in domestic and/or international practices may focus on water, land and or air protection, hazardous waste disposal, climate change, natural resources, energy, agriculture, real estate, and insurance, to name just a few areas. Environmental law practitioners are found in all sectors: private law firms, in-house counsel for corporations, public interest and advocacy groups, and all levels of federal, state, and local governments. Environmental lawyers also practice in the Judge Advocate General Corps.

In the United States, the chief federal government agency for administering environmental regulation is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but many other federal agencies have jurisdiction over environmental matters, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Many states have their own enforcement agencies as well.

An environmental lawyer works to represent clients in legal issues such as in clean technology, water law, climate change law and the management of land subject to native title and other public land. Environment laws are a large and complex specialty within the practice of law. Those interested in this area can expect their practice to have a heavy administrative law component, as many of the applicable rules are regulations passed by federal and state agencies.

Attorneys that work for federal agencies may either defend agency actions under environmental regulations or bring enforcement actions pursuant to environmental laws. Attorneys with federal and state legislatures provide counsel on drafting policy, whereas lobbyists inform their clients of pending legislation and advocate on behalf of their clients. Public interest attorneys work for non-profit advocacy organizations, community groups, and environmental justice coalitions. In private practice, attorneys typically represent businesses, corporations and industries subject to federal, state and local regulations. In-house corporate attorneys advise their client on a wide range of issues, including compliance, tax, securities and real property matters.

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