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Environmental law- major

Wolffy25Wolffy25 Registered User Posts: 586 Member
edited August 2007 in Law School
Hey everyone, I had a question I was wondering if I could get some feedback in.

I did a search on this topic, and found some good responses, but I was looking for some more input.

I am currently studying at Duke, with an undergrad major of poli-sci. I'm a sophomore this year, and did well my freshman year (4.0).

I really don't know what I want to do with my life... and have been going along a law school route by default, as I still am very uncertain. That being said, I even went more default-ish and am studying poli-sci (so not unique, I know :( )

So far, my only real passion is environmental conservation, and for that, I thought I would like to go into politics or environmental law, maybe make some big changes.

A few questions:

Is it beneficial AT ALL to major in environmental sciences, or a natural science? I spoke with a pre-law advisor, who said it was, then I talked to an admission representative at Lewis and Clark who said it didn't matter at all. When I say is it beneficial, I not only mean for admissions, but more so for AFTER law school, finding a job where I can make some environmental change.

Also... is environmental law the way to go if I want to make environmental changes? (simple terms, such as, stop this whole global warming mess, save some polar bears, save some trees, ect...)

Thanks, my main question is about the major. I actually have to decide some courses by tomorrow... if I want to do enviro, I need to make some major changes (and prob summer school). My thought it, I would have a lower GPA in a enviro (I'd have to take chem/ bio/ physics), which would hurt my admissions chances. Im really just concerned, because, for instance, in patent law, most firms want people with engineering degrees and what not. Is it the same for environmental law?
Post edited by Wolffy25 on

Replies to: Environmental law- major

  • Wolffy25Wolffy25 Registered User Posts: 586 Member
    Any suggestions?
  • cartera45cartera45 Registered User Posts: 12,440 Senior Member
    If your passion is environmental conservation, then it seems to be a good choice regardless of law school - about which you seem to be ambivalent. Environmental law is not necessarily the way to change the world since most of the environmental lawyers are representing the companies that you would most likely see as the culprits. The watchdogs - EPA and DOJ - are controlled more by politics than conservation. Of course, there are attorneys who work with non-profits and who do go after the bad guys but that is a longer road and can be a struggle monetarily. I read recently that green home building is booming even while the rest of the housing market is not. Perhaps you could look into that. A good friend of mine is in Florida now overseeing the building of a green home. Environmental change can be very grass roots driven - no pun intended. My friend started her company with the help of a communications major, a film maker and a social worker.
  • ArcsoldierArcsoldier Registered User Posts: 38 Junior Member
    yeah pretty much all you can do is speak about it like Al Gore or RFK Jr. Unless you are a politician (though focusing just on the environment makes you a one issue politician and very unelectable) or work for the EPA.

    You could work a non profit organization but you won't change the world as you are envisioning it. They sue a company and then what? The company does it again. Only the government has the power to full out stop it.

    I was thinking of doing patent law but I didn't feel like doing an engineering degree. They favor but doesn't mean you won't get a job. The firm will just have to get you to work with an engineering.

    Environmental organizations will get all the help they need. Especially if you truly love it. They will help you along the way with information and such once you work.

    I just suggest get into law school. Just get a law degree. While in law school if you can get a concentration in environmental law or take some classes geared toward it. Plus you can always work for a non-profit organization like we said. Its a lot easier especially if you have a passion for it, again especially environmental law.

    Though I'll probably be on the table to your left at the defendant's counsel. ;P
  • unbelievablemunbelievablem Registered User Posts: 1,185 Senior Member
    especially since you seem so ambivalent about the idea of law school to begin with, you should really stop and think about whether that is really the best path for you. law school is expensive. high student loans make it VERY difficult to then go to work for a low paying non-profit that might be doing the type of environmental work that interests you.

    as has already been pointed out -- most of the "environmental" law jobs available right out of law school are with firms representing companies, taking positions you may not be comfortable with, or with the gov't whose agenda is politically driven and changes with administrations and funding.

    the most important thing for any prospective law student to understand is that as a lawyer it is your job to represent the interests of your client. your client may be a person, a corporation, a gov't agency, or a not-for-profit -- but it is the client's interests that dictate what the lawyer does -- NOT the lawyer's interests. you seem to have your own agenda and concerns -- and you seem to think that law school is a route to effectuate that -- but you must realize that being a lawyer means being paid to be someone else's hired gun --especially as a young attorney you often don't have the financial luxury of hand picking clients whose interests and goals match your own. if you can step back and view such representation as a challenge and be willing to learn from whatever side of a case that may put you on, you may find law a satisfying career. if you will be unhappy if your client's goals go against your personal world view, law may not be the field for you.

    there aren't that many jobs in environmental law representing who you may feel are the good guys -- those jobs may not pay well, and furthermore, those jobs may even hire people who first have experience at firms or gov't jobs.

    as for what you should major in -- if you have such a strong interest in the environment that seems like an awfully good reason to major it in regardless of law school. in fact majoring in it may allow you to learn about other potential career paths that may be more suited to your goals.

    lawyers end up doing a lot of different things -- a law school education can be a good (but, don't forget, very expensive) background for many things -- so you will undoubtedly find lawyers in positions in the environmental field -- but that doesn't necessarily mean that law school is the best path if saving the environment is your priority. majoring in an area related to the environment may put you in a better position to evaluate whether it is the best path for you.

    good luck.
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