Environmental law may have been invisible on the legal radar a few years ago, however today it is very much in the limelight and a growing, lucrative and very interesting area of law. The subject covers both contentious and non-contentious practice and comprises of matters such as health & safety; resource contamination; dumping of waste; recycling of material; disaster management; climate change and alternative energy resources amongst many others.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in environment law, opportunities are available to work as in-house talent for big corporations and NGOs.
What is involved in Environmental Law?
Enactment of the Environmental Protection Act in 1990 marked the UK’s first step towards a growing focus on environment law. Still considered a niche practice area, it is very difficult to find pure environmental law practices, in most firms lawyers specialising in environment are usually seconded from property & construction or project finance departments.
Solicitors interested in private practice and wanting to specialize in environment law will usually work as in-house talent or external consultants to companies. The completion of due diligence in large corporate, property and projects’ deals is an important part of the job role.
Diligence activity can include anything from checking on waste disposal methods, illegal dumping, past history of environment protection and wildlife conservation where critical.
Other tasks include providing necessary advice to clients’ on compliance with regulatory requirements, pre-empting investigations by authorities and defending clients against claims on pollution, conservation methods, emissions, criminal negligence and general health and safety.
Many of these claims involve considerable damages to reputations and huge pecuniary losses by way of penalties and compensation. Accordingly, lawyers play a very critical role in such matters, both before and after the fact.
The public law domain in environment law is comprised of working for local governmental authorities such as the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, or regulatory agencies such as the Environment Agency.
You will be assigned to work on matters relating to pollution levels, emission control, planning & infrastructure needs versus environmental concerns, alternate and renewable energy resources, maintenance of health and sanitation, clean water supply, and contentious work prosecuting guilty entities on environmental issues. You can also get involved in drafting supplementary rules, planning reforms, etc.
What is needed for Environmental Law?
To be an environment lawyer, desirable qualities are flexibility, an ability to multitask, an excellent academic background with strong reasoning and analytical skills and a keen awareness of the commercial process.
Reasonable working hours and interesting growth prospects are available.The range of work you will get to participate in this field will also require for you to be savvy and updated in corporate & transactional law, public health and safety, financial resourcefulness and current industrial, business and regulatory norms.
A lot of the technology and resources available in environmental law today are very cutting-edge and futuristic, so it definitely helps if you’ve got a fair bit of knowledge in science and are very familiar with jargon and environmental terminology.
Current Climate for Environmental Law
Growing worldwide concern and increasing publicity of environmental issues mean that much care and attention are being paid by governments and organisations on cleaning up and maintaining a sustainable environment for future generations. A majority of actions, as a result of such concern, are new laws both local and international, corporate accountability for greening the earth, reducing carbon footprints, keeping pollution, emission and radiation levels in check, and so on.
Recent developments to remember are the establishment of the Kyoto Protocol, movements such as Earth First, new legislation in the UK and EU such as the Contaminated Land Regime & Environmental Liability Directive (UK) and EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Other important trends are the earning of carbon credits, incentives to industry in developed and emerging markets to use green technology.
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