The Top Five Environmental Law Firms

Published: Apr 23, 2024

 Education       Grad School       Job Search       Law       
Article image

Environmental law can differ greatly depending on an attorney’s client base; one can work for a public interest group or firm to fight to preserve the environment or can represent companies to navigate environmental regulations. On either side, the practice heavily involves regulations and laws at the national, state, and local level. Practitioners in this area should be comfortable with science as well as politics, which both figure heavily into the practice. Environmental lawyers for public interest groups can work long hours for little pay and feel that they are always fighting deeper pockets. Lawyers representing companies can feel frustrated by the regulations that prevent commercial activity. In large firms, many real estate, energy, and project finance lawyers will deal with environmental regulations in their deals, and litigators representing companies in these sectors will also deal with environmental issues. Among areas environmental lawyers may handle include air quality, chemicals regulation, California’s environmental standards, contamination, hazardous materials, insurance, natural resources, mining, occupational safety and health, Superfund, sustainability, toxic torts, water, wildlife protection, and more.

The five top-ranked Environmental law firms based on Vault’s 2024 Environmental Law prestige rankings are Beveridge & Diamond; LathamArnold & Porter; Sidley Austin; and Kirkland & Ellis. Below are a few relevant highlights about each of these firms.

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.

Beveridge & Diamond sits at #1 in our Environmental Law prestige rankings, and is also ranked in several of our Best Midsize Law Firms to Work For categories, the highest being the #14 midsize firm for Pro Bono. The firm employs over 100 attorneys out of seven U.S. offices, including its DC headquarters. A relatively young firm, they were formed in 1974 by the first administrator of the EPA and the first commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, pioneering legal work navigating some of the very first federal environmental laws and regulations. Since that time, they have become the nation's premier law firm in their specialization, and they are also renowned for their commitment to DEI, shown by their #24 Best Midsize Law Firm for Diversity ranking.

Latham & Watkins

Ranked at #2 in Vault’s 2024 Environmental Law prestige rankings, Latham is #4 in the overall Vault Law 100, the #23 best overall law firm to work for, and the best law firm in Southern California. They employ over 3,000 attorneys out of 12 U.S. and 18 international offices. Associates describe the culture as friendly and ambitious, and the firm has a standard billable hour requirement of 1,900. Partnership is realistic with a transparent but difficult path, and exit opportunities are very strong.

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP

Claiming the #3 spot in Vault's 2024 Environmental Law prestige rankings, Arnold & Porter is #34 in the overall Vault Law 100, the #38 overall Best Law Firm to Work For, and has several other distinguished practices, including two other top 10 rankings (#5 in Products Liability and #7 in Antitrust). They employ over 750 attorneys in 10 U.S. and five international offices. Associates describe the culture as casual and down-to-earth, and the firm has a billable hour requirement of 2,000, of which 200 can be pro bono, business development, or training hours. Partnership is possible for those willing to do the work, and counsel roles exist as well. Additionally, the firm has a career development team dedicated to connecting associates with the firm's alumni network for external positions.

Sidley Austin LLP

Sidley Austin holds the #4 spot in Vault's 2024 Environmental Law prestige rankings, the #2 spot in Vault’s Chicago prestige rankings, and sits at #11 in the overall Vault Law 100. Sidley is huge, with over 2,000 attorneys working out of 11 U.S. and 10 international offices. The firm places in the top ten of seven of our practice area rankings, the highest being Environmental Law, and they are also the #33 overall Best Law Firm to Work For. Associates call the culture friendly and collaborative. The firm has a total hours requirement of 2,000, of which 1,800 must be billable. Partnership here is difficult, but the in-house and government exit opportunities are very strong.

Kirkland & Ellis

Kirkland & Ellis operates 11 U.S. and seven international offices, and employs over 3,500 attorneys. In addition to being the #5 Environmental Law firm, Kirkland & Ellis is #7 in the overall Vault Law 100, the top firm in Bankruptcy/Restructuring, Private Equity, and Products Liability, and the top firm in both Chicago and the broader Midwest. Associates here describe the culture as upbeat and energizing, with no formal billable hour requirement but generally long working hours. Partnership here is realistic and transparent, but quite difficult. Exit opportunities are very strong.


If your heart is set on an environmental law practice, Beveridge & Diamond is the premier firm for it in more ways than one. That said, there is a huge amount of overlap between the country's best Environmental Law firms and the most prestigious firms overall, and a lot of these firms also rank amongst our Best Law Firms to Work For. If you have both the pedigree to get offers from these firms and are interested in one of the nicer places to work, any one of these five firms should be of significant interest to you.

Best of luck from all of us at Vault Law on your legal job search!