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If you've been considering getting into environmental law, you may be wondering whether or not it's a worthwhile pursuit for your practice. And whether your firm has the passion or maybe already has the clients, may be the determining factors.
For example, for business attorneys that primarily serve manufacturing and real estate clients, environmental law can really be a boon for business, and is often a necessary part of representing some types of businesses. Apart from defending litigation, there can often be environmental compliance work, and other environmental legal risks associated with certain processes or transactions. For non-transactional attorneys, environmental law takes on more civil rights-ish aspect.
Public Interest Environmental Causes
For attorneys that focus on helping individuals, certain laws, like the Clean Water Act, provide for a private right of action where the government refuses to step in. Additionally, other state and federal laws provide mechanisms to combat pollution, unsafe living and working conditions, and other environmental harms, and most of these laws provide for attorney fees to a prevailing plaintiff. That means if you do your homework and market your practice to the right clients, you could potentially make money helping the environment.
If your firm has an attorney or two interested in pursuing environmental causes on behalf of individuals or the public's interest, it could be good for business to let them, and not just financially. Pursuing public interest causes, especially good ones, can help a firm's reputation quite a bit, as well as result in a massive uptick in potential client interest.
Going All In
If environmental law is all you ever wanted to do, you may want to heed the advice of those who came before you: proceed with caution (and maybe consider a virtual environmental practice).
Before diving in, you need to develop your credibility and actually become a bit of an environmental expert yourself. Researching legal issues in environmental law and publishing papers, or even just blog posts, can go a long way to establish your credibility. Also, becoming an active member of various environmental non-profit organizations can be a good way to network.
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