Many lawyers are employed in full-time, salaried positions in government, in law firms or other corporations, or in nonprofit organizations, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council or the Environmental Defense Fund. Most government-employed lawyers work at the state and local levels. Those employed by the federal government work in many different agencies, including the Departments of Interior, Agriculture (U.S. Forest Service), Energy, and Justice, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. Lawyers outside of government work as house counsel for public utilities, banks, insurance companies, real estate agencies, manufacturing firms, and other businesses and nonprofit organizations. Some lawyers teach a particular subject at law schools; others work as administrators.
Environmental law students secure internships while they are in law school so they can gain firsthand experience in the field. You can get an earlier start by finding a summer or part-time job at an environmental law firm or in the legal department of a nonprofit organization. Many environmental lawyers learn about job opportunities through job sites, with the assistance of their law school career services office, or by contacting potential employers directly.
Beginning lawyers start as associates in salaried positions, usually working with more experienced lawyers or judges. With years of experience, they may become partners (partial owners) in their law firm. Government lawyers usually start as interns, moving up to supervisory positions after a few years of practice. With 15 to 20 years of experience, they may become division director or chief legal counsel. Environmental lawyers may also leave salaried positions to start their own law practices. Advancement further down the road can be in the form of nominated or elected judgeships. Lawyers may also pursue academic careers by taking full-time faculty or administrator positions in law schools. Lawyers who work in legal departments of large corporations may gain more experience by taking more senior management positions within their department or by working in other departments to gain more exposure to other aspects of the business.
Tips for Entry
Use the NALP Directory of Legal Employers (http://www.nalpdirectory.com) to search for employers by location, employer type, practice area, and other criteria.
Visit the Web sites of Fortune 500 companies, which often employ environmental lawyers, to learn about potential job opportunities. Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Join professional associations to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office.
Conduct information interviews with environmental lawyers, and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.