The advice below is from Neil Wise, Adjunct Professor and Career Counselor.
Environmental Law is still an evolving practice: from regulatory practice at the federal, state and local level; to public interest representation, and corporate practice. The stakes continue to be very high; there are health impacts, pollution problems in air, water and soils; expensive prevention, remediation, and other compliance issues; and potentially catastrophic climate impacts.
A science background is often helpful to understand some of the very technical issues involving chemicals, health impacts, and contamination hazards, but there are plenty of highly educated and experienced consultants in the field to help practitioners. Rutgers Law has courses, programs, organizations, and competitions that can provide students with some of the basics of environmental law, regulations, and litigation as well as ‘hands-on’ practice.
What classes should I take?
Rutgers Law School offers courses covering a broad range for environmental issues, such as environmental law, regulations, hazardous waste issues, Natural Resources, Oil & Gas, Energy, Environmental Justice, Land Use, and Administrative law.
Students hoping to practice in the field of Environmental Law should acquaint themselves with the broader range of laws that affect businesses. Besides the courses listed above, other courses such as Business Organizations, Bankruptcy, and Business Torts are helpful.
- Environmental Law, examines the concepts underlying such laws as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, not only to provide a general introduction to these statutes, but also to explore the many difficult policy and implementation issues involved in trying to protect the environment and public health.
- Environmental Litigation, is a skills course introducing students to Superfund law and negotiations. There is a simulation based on one superfund site, participating in all aspects of the handling of a superfund matter, from initial information gathering through motion practice, limitation and settlement negotiations.
- Environmental Regulation of Business, covers major environmental statutes. It addresses how environmental laws intersect with and govern business practices; examines environmental federalism and citizen enforcement of environmental laws; how federal and state environmental agencies, the regulated community, and environmental groups interact in addressing environmental management standards for business practices.
- Natural Resources Law, is a survey of federal natural resources law covering the history of public land law; the constitutional issues in federal control of natural resources; environmental planning; wildlife protection; public land management; fisheries and marine resources; and minerals;
- Oil and Gas Development and the Environment, covers key aspects of the common law, contracts and statutory framework used to explore for and produce oil and gas in the U.S. and internationally;
- Administrative Law, an introduction to the law controlling how administrative agencies (federal, state and local) work, critical for anyone who will practice for or deal with environmental regulatory bodies.
- Land Use Law and Policy, examines how the development and preservation of land is shaped and controlled through government regulation, including the law of zoning, the constitutional constraints on land use regulation, and the establishment and enforcement of subdivision controls, building codes, and other development regulations.
- Environmental Justice, environmental justice is a social movement grounded in the synthesis of environmental and civil rights law and policy. This course provides students with a broad overview of environmental law and introduces the concept of environmental justice.
- Moot Court and Seminars, Rutgers sponsors a team of two or three students to compete in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition held at Pace Law in February. The team must draft and submit a brief in the Fall Semester, and participate in Oral Argument competition against 80 other teams in February each year.
The Environmental Law Society meets regularly to discuss academic and other issues, and sponsors speakers from environmental organizations such as EPA, DEP, and local and national citizen advocacy groups and other environmental non-profits.
It is never too early to get into contact with local practitioners—including many Rutgers Law alums—who work in the area of environmental law.
Each year two 3Ls are chosen to be in the Delaware Valley Environmental Inn of Court, which meets monthly at different Philadelphia law firms. Pupillage teams, with members from all levels of practice and experience, present programs of interest at each Inn meeting.
ABA SEER: The American Bar Association has special membership status for students, who are also welcome to join the Section of Energy, Environment, and Resources.
The Environmental and Energy Law Committee is a Standing Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association. Its mission is to serve the profession and the public by promoting justice, professional excellence, and respect for the rule of law, with a particular focus on the practice of environmental law in the Greater Philadelphia area.