The Earth is Green, Water is Blue, Is Environmental Law the Career for You?

Conversation Heart candies with Pink Background; Focus on heart that says 'Say Yes'
We’re at a real­ly impor­tant time … where our whole ener­gy sys­tem is chang­ing for the bet­ter … but we also face big challenges.” – Andrew Arm­strong, IL AGO

Last week, at a dis­cus­sion about envi­ron­men­tal and oth­er pub­lic inter­est careers in attor­ney gen­er­al offices, Michi­gan Attor­ney Gen­er­al Dana Nes­sel said: The fed­er­al and state statutes that make up envi­ron­men­tal law are as impor­tant as the air we breathe and the water that we drink,” and the attor­neys in her office enforce those laws to the ben­e­fit of all Michi­gan­ders … and … real­ly to all Americans.”

Decades ago, the phrase envi­ron­men­tal law” might have evoked thoughts of work­ing on cas­es about con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water, pol­lut­ed air, and tox­ic waste spills.

While these areas are very much still part of the land­scape, now there are new tools to address them. There is also more ground to cov­er: there is a resound­ing need for work on cli­mate and resilience, and envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice, an issue that ded­i­cat­ed advo­cates have been work­ing on for decades. This is both an excit­ing and impor­tant time to prac­tice envi­ron­men­tal law, and the pub­lic sec­tor has oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents, new attor­neys, and sea­soned prac­ti­tion­ers to make an impact.

If you are…spending those long hours and real­ly invest­ing your­self … it’s real­ly great to have it be some­thing you care about on such a per­son­al level.”

– Gavin McCabe, NY AGO

There are many ways to have a career in envi­ron­men­tal law – non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions, fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, local gov­ern­ment, and the pri­vate sector. 

But as AG staffers explained, work­ing in an AG office offers a great pack­age: the oppor­tu­ni­ty to serve the pub­lic, an often good work-life bal­ance, col­lab­o­ra­tion with oth­er advo­cates, and high lev­els of respon­si­bil­i­ty even as a junior attorney.

The Cen­ter works to con­nect inter­est­ed law stu­dents to oppor­tu­ni­ties like these through our stu­dent out­reach list. Some job search resources men­tioned at the event include:

Career Oppor­tu­ni­ties at:

Amer­i­can Con­sti­tu­tion Soci­ety: State AGO Opportunities

Work­ing for the AG’s office is, I think, one of the most reward­ing ways to serve the pub­lic inter­est. I feel incred­i­bly for­tu­nate to do the work I do.”

– Liza Rober­son-Young, IL AGO

No mat­ter what area of law, work­ing in an AG office can be reward­ing and mean­ing­ful. As Dis­trict of Colum­bia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Karl Racine put it at anoth­er event last fall: The ques­tion before all of you, whether you’ve been a prac­tic­ing lawyer for years, or if you’re just a 1L, what are you going to do about it, and how can you have the great­est impact?” Beyond envi­ron­men­tal law, AGs work on con­sumer pro­tec­tion, vot­ing rights, and police reform – to name a few – as AG Nes­sel put it, we’ve got it all.” If you open up a news­pa­per, many top sto­ries in some way, shape, or form” involve her department.