Career Profile: Environmental Lawyer

Career Profile: Environmental Lawyer

by Susan Huebert
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Many people care about the environment, but not everyone has a chance to do much about it. People can sign petitions and write to the government. They can do their best to use less energy and to clean up after themselves. Right now, you can learn about the environment and do what you can to avoid polluting it. In the future, you could help even more by becoming an environmental lawyer.

Traditionally, lawyers have dealt with issues like criminal trials, contracts between businesses or other groups, and helping people deal with other legal matters. A newer branch of the legal profession is environmental law. In this profession, lawyers work with government legislation regarding the environment. They try to be sure that the laws are effective, and that people are obeying them.

Because this branch of law is still quite new, it can be difficult to find a job as an environmental lawyer. However, getting an education in a related field can help. Earning a bachelor’s degree in a field such as environmental studies, resource management, business, or philosophy at a university is a good start.

After finishing an undergraduate degree, students write an exam called the LSAT to test their abilities. If they pass this test, they can go to law school to become lawyers with a specialty in environmental law. Five universities in Canada offer degrees in this specialty: York University, McGill University, University of Ottawa, Université Laval, and University of Calgary.

Becoming an environmental lawyer is not a quick process. Normally, a bachelor’s degree takes at least three or four years and a law degree takes at least two or three more. In some provinces, law school graduates are required to work for another year in an apprenticeship called student-at-law.

During this time, the students work with a fully-trained lawyer to gain experience in the day-to-day practice of law. They receive a salary, but not at the rate they will later earn. After they complete that and a program at the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education, they can normally begin their careers as lawyers.

Once they finish their education, environmental lawyers might work with governments or they might set up private practices as consultants. They might work on projects for universities or environmental organization, or even for small groups of people trying to make a difference in their communities. Much of the work involves research and gathering information on threats to the environment or on ways that people can help preserve species or protect streams and rivers.

When environmental lawyers work as advisers and consultants, they give their clients information they need for potential lawsuits or other actions. However, they may sometimes become more involved, possibly going to trial against polluters or taking other actions. Although the hours can be long and the job can be stressful and tiring, it is not usually very physically difficult. Salaries generally range between $47,000 and $128,000 per year.

Much of Canadian law depends on past decisions that the courts have made. Because environmental law is still new, lawyers need to find other ways of making their point. This could make the field difficult but exciting. If you want to help nature and you enjoy challenges, becoming an environmental lawyer might be right for you.



Academic Invest. “How to Become an Environmental Lawyer.” https://www.academicinvest.com/science-careers/environmental-science-careers/how-to-become-an-environmental-lawyer.

Canadian Environmental Law Association. “Who We Are.” https://cela.ca/about-us.

ECO Canada. “Environmental Lawyer.” https://www.eco.ca/training/career-profiles/environmental-lawyer/.

LLM Guide. “LLM Programs in Environmental Law/Energy Law/Resources Law—Canada. https://llm-guide.com/schools/canada/concentration/environmental-law-energy-law-resources-law.

Payscale Canada. “Average Attorney/Lawyer Salary in Canada.” https://www.payscale.com/research/CA/Job=Attorney_%2F_Lawyer/Salary.

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