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 Post subject: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 1:29 pm 
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I studied environmental studies in undergrad and am very interested in environmental law and policy. With that being said I am worried with the recent developments in Congress (republicans taking control of the house and pretty much vowing not to make any moves on comprehensive climate change legislation). I am about to go to a law school based on their environmental law program, not their overall rank, because they have an amazing environmental law program. I want to know though if this is the right choice, and weather the field of environmental law is really worth getting into, or is it not really going anywhere?


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 1:38 pm 
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Specialty rankings mean nothing.

If the school is in a region where you want to practice and is either highly ranked or you can get a sizable amount of scholarship, that's one thing, but to choose a school based solely on a specialty ranking is a poor decision.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 1:45 pm 
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If you want to practice environmental law for a private law firm representing corporate or municipal clients, there are a decent amount of opportunities for entry level attorneys.

However, if you want to work for either federal government or non-profit enviro orgs you should be aware that there are very few jobs for new graduates and the ones that exist are exceptionally competitive. Far more so than a typical "biglaw" job. Depending on where you intend to practice there may also be state or local gov't agency opportunities, but they tend to exclusively hire attorneys with experience as well.

So, if you want to work for a private firm, or are willing to do so for 3-5 years out of law school, I wouldn't worry about job opportunities in the environmental field. However, if you want to practice "public interest" enviro law directly from law school you should know this is a much more difficult proposition.

Finally, I don't know which schools you are choosing between, but if it is between a school with a national reputation and say L&C or Vermont, you will be better positioned to obtain most any legal job (even environmental ones), if you graduate from the more highly ranked law school.

These dynamics won't change much no matter what Congress does (or more likely doesn't) do in regards to climate change or other environmental laws over the next few years.

Good luck.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 2:03 pm 
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Think_lax86 wrote:
I studied environmental studies in undergrad and am very interested in environmental law and policy. With that being said I am worried with the recent developments in Congress (republicans taking control of the house and pretty much vowing not to make any moves on comprehensive climate change legislation). I am about to go to a law school based on their environmental law program, not their overall rank, because they have an amazing environmental law program. I want to know though if this is the right choice, and weather the field of environmental law is really worth getting into, or is it not really going anywhere?


I'm not even in law school yet, so my advice might mean nothing, but my step-dad is a partner at a mid-size law firm. He handles mostly intellectual property with technology cases (people who make websites, start web-based businesses, etc) and now he always talks about how he wished he had gone into environmental law. He says a lot of the new interesting cases brought to his firm are about the environment, and in his opinion, the area is only going to expand. However, I think a lot of people on this site say there is no such thing as these kinds of specializations (environmental, international law, etc). I think the best advice though is to go to the best school you can get into, as specialty ranks do not really mean very much. Also, just because the republicans have control of the house now, it doesn't mean they will when you are looking for a job after you graduate.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 9:14 pm 
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Isn't the whole concept with specialty rankings that they speak to the quality and quantity of classes that the school has in said specialty? Doesn't that say something about the type of education your going to be coming out with, at least in that specialization? It appears that the overall quantity of courses, clinics, specialty law reviews all dedicated to environmental law are much greater in the school I am looking at than in most others. I understand that has nothing to do with Top 100 rankings, but doesn't that stand for something? When everyone says specialty rankings don't mean anything, well in what regards? It seems the sheer quantity of things available at these schools is greater than most others. That doesn't mean anything?


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 9:22 pm 
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I hear K&E is representing BP in the oil spill. Enjoy "environmental law."


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:33 pm 
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Quote:
I hear K&E is representing BP in the oil spill. Enjoy "environmental law."


...alrighty than


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 2:49 am 
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Environmental law is basically like tax law, but way more technical and confusing. If that sounds like fun to you, then yeah, it's a great field.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:26 am 
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Think_lax86 wrote:
I studied environmental studies in undergrad and am very interested in environmental law and policy. With that being said I am worried with the recent developments in Congress (republicans taking control of the house and pretty much vowing not to make any moves on comprehensive climate change legislation). I am about to go to a law school based on their environmental law program, not their overall rank, because they have an amazing environmental law program. I want to know though if this is the right choice, and weather the field of environmental law is really worth getting into, or is it not really going anywhere?


OP, you sound much more like a candidate for policy school than law school. Go to policy school, and then go to DC or your state capitol and work on enacting the kinds of policies you think should exist. You don't need a JD to accomplish any of that. Go to a state capitol and you'll find JDs doing work that they didn't need JDs to do. If you want to be a legislative counsel, fine, no guarantees you'll be able to do the kind of work that you want to on environmental issues. And as was suggested earlier, if you don't want to represent the Exxons and BPs of the world in litigation and regulatory proceedings, you're probably not interested in environmental law in the private sector.

Well, that leaves the public/nonprofit sector. I suppose you could get a job with a nonprofit agency. Take a look at their job listings sometime and see how many attorneys they're hiring. You gonna go to law school for that?

http://www.earthjustice.org/about/jobs_education
http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=371
http://www.sierraclub.org/careers/conse ... fault.aspx
http://www.riverkeeper.org/about-us/jobs/
http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/about/jobs/

That leaves the feds. But remember what I said. You don't need to be a JD to affect environmental policy in government. Getting a policy job in DC is competitive, but getting a legal job there, much more so.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 11:20 am 
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FunkyJD wrote:
Think_lax86 wrote:
I studied environmental studies in undergrad and am very interested in environmental law and policy. With that being said I am worried with the recent developments in Congress (republicans taking control of the house and pretty much vowing not to make any moves on comprehensive climate change legislation). I am about to go to a law school based on their environmental law program, not their overall rank, because they have an amazing environmental law program. I want to know though if this is the right choice, and weather the field of environmental law is really worth getting into, or is it not really going anywhere?


OP, you sound much more like a candidate for policy school than law school. Go to policy school, and then go to DC or your state capitol and work on enacting the kinds of policies you think should exist. You don't need a JD to accomplish any of that. Go to a state capitol and you'll find JDs doing work that they didn't need JDs to do. If you want to be a legislative counsel, fine, no guarantees you'll be able to do the kind of work that you want to on environmental issues. And as was suggested earlier, if you don't want to represent the Exxons and BPs of the world in litigation and regulatory proceedings, you're probably not interested in environmental law in the private sector.

Well, that leaves the public/nonprofit sector. I suppose you could get a job with a nonprofit agency. Take a look at their job listings sometime and see how many attorneys they're hiring. You gonna go to law school for that?

http://www.earthjustice.org/about/jobs_education
http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=371
http://www.sierraclub.org/careers/conse ... fault.aspx
http://www.riverkeeper.org/about-us/jobs/
http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/about/jobs/

That leaves the feds. But remember what I said. You don't need to be a JD to affect environmental policy in government. Getting a policy job in DC is competitive, but getting a legal job there, much more so.


Bumping the thread to add a few things:

- The three schools that focus their curriculum on enviro law (L&C, Pace, and Vermont) are probably not able to find jobs right now for even a majority of their graduates. As people noted, enviro orgs are not in a position where they have any need to hire people fresh out of law school. The last attorney Riverkeeper hired directly from law school was in 2007, and that was someone who had worked for Riverkeeper for a few years prior. The same person also worked in Pace's Environmental Law Clinic, which is directly tied with Riverkeeper but also very competitive to get into. Even very top graduates from Pace right now are struggling to find someone who can hire them, given the market saturation in NY. That said, you can always start up your own Riverkeeper program in your hometown and be your own boss. I'm still looking for someone who wants to start up a Cumberland Riverkeeper in Nashville, so if anyone has ties to the area and wants more information send me a PM.

If you're seriously considering one of these schools, you need to contact career services and ask to see a complete list of every employer that hired a graduate for the most recent class. They have that information available and can send it to you, even though they might claim they don't. Be persistent in asking and explaining why you need the information; it's your first chance to advocate for something important.

If you still decide to attend one of these programs, understand that unlike most schools with a number of specialties, you will be competing with most of your classmates for the same exact job. Some of them will have years of experience doing environmental policy, and even they will have difficulty in the job market right now. You will need to start contacting and volunteering with potential employers early on to get internship offers before your classmates. If you can develop a niche (either geographical or topic-specific) early on, you will be much better-served in the job hunt. This might mean delaying your decision to enroll for a year or two while you build connections, develop experience, and otherwise hedge your bets should the legal profession still not be hiring and you need to return to your prior work. Doing so will also allow you to save so you don't have to take on as much debt.

I am a big fan of the programming offered at these schools (and the clinics in general), but I don't think they're fairly communicating their job prospects. You have to realize that what they're selling (the chance to do great things in the environmental field with your degree) is only going to be open to a select few graduates, while the rest are going to pursue other work. Some of that work will be highly rewarding, but without a doubt people are graduating from these schools in a lot of debt and very unhappy with how things turned out. It's worth doing your due diligence before embarking on a legal career, no matter how idealistic your goals may be. G'luck.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:02 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:06 am 
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PI is only a naive fantasy for people who aren't at the top of their class at top schools.

The suggestion to work in policy is a good one. The vast majority of PI types would better fulfill their goals by getting a job in state/fed legislature and building a career in policy. I guess law school must just feel safer to them somehow.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:59 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 1:13 pm 
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lwaring1 wrote:
IAFG wrote:
PI is only a naive fantasy for people who aren't at the top of their class at top schools.

The suggestion to work in policy is a good one. The vast majority of PI types would better fulfill their goals by getting a job in state/fed legislature and building a career in policy. I guess law school must just feel safer to them somehow.


I still think if you look at these types of policy positions (in environmental orgs or otherwise) a JD will serve you just as well as a MEM, MS, etc in "building a career in policy." Just because a position doesn't require a law degree does not mean that someone with one of these master's degrees would have a competitive advantage in seeking employment over a graduate from a good law school with internships, coursework, etc. in environmental law or policy. I don't understand your bias toward master's in environmental policy-type programs. Maybe you, or someone else of a similar persuasion, could further explain your position? I understand that going to L&C or VLS and banking on immediately finding a job in a prestigious PI org or the federal govt is not realistic, but I still feel your degree of pessimism toward all "people who aren't at the top of their class at top schools" is overdramatic at best and thoroughly wrong at worst, especially in light of the some of the other discussions on TLS about environmental law careers and hiring practices for these positions, such as guimoman's posts in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=102006.

A JD is an awfully expensive way to get a small edge. Getting to work and making connections and learning the contours of the field is probably a lot more valuable.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:33 pm 
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IAFG wrote:
lwaring1 wrote:
IAFG wrote:
PI is only a naive fantasy for people who aren't at the top of their class at top schools.

The suggestion to work in policy is a good one. The vast majority of PI types would better fulfill their goals by getting a job in state/fed legislature and building a career in policy. I guess law school must just feel safer to them somehow.


I still think if you look at these types of policy positions (in environmental orgs or otherwise) a JD will serve you just as well as a MEM, MS, etc in "building a career in policy." Just because a position doesn't require a law degree does not mean that someone with one of these master's degrees would have a competitive advantage in seeking employment over a graduate from a good law school with internships, coursework, etc. in environmental law or policy. I don't understand your bias toward master's in environmental policy-type programs. Maybe you, or someone else of a similar persuasion, could further explain your position? I understand that going to L&C or VLS and banking on immediately finding a job in a prestigious PI org or the federal govt is not realistic, but I still feel your degree of pessimism toward all "people who aren't at the top of their class at top schools" is overdramatic at best and thoroughly wrong at worst, especially in light of the some of the other discussions on TLS about environmental law careers and hiring practices for these positions, such as guimoman's posts in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=102006.

A JD is an awfully expensive way to get a small edge. Getting to work and making connections and learning the contours of the field is probably a lot more valuable.


I would agree. I do know of one organization where (as a rule) they only hire lawyers to work in the policy department, but they are hardly the norm (and you have to work as a lawyer somewhere else before they'll hire you to do policy). Obviously if you want to be doing litigation for a group like Earthjustice you need the law degree, but for policy work it's more important to gain experience, build relationships with people who trust your judgment, and go from there. For me, law school actually gave me the experience/relationships I didn't already have, but I went to a small law school with a great environmental journal and only a handful of students interested in entering the environmental field. It was presumably much easier for me to utilize the connections our profs had than if half my class were gunning for the same type of jobs.

Also, I was reading what Guimoman had to say and I think (s)he drew some bad conclusions based on what (s)he heard. For starters, there are very few environmental jobs where the employer does not have competitive applicants from top law schools who ALSO have significant environmental experience and a proven track record of being dedicated to practicing in the field. If you have two similarly-ranked students who both have enviro experience, and one is at Pace while the other is at a top program, the Pace student will unfortunately not have the edge absent their own personal connections. That's not to say you can't build those connections during law school, but you face a lot of competition among your peers that simply doesn't exist at schools where everyone isn't so dedicated to practicing one type of law.

Additionally, holding out the opportunities these grads had 6 or 7 years ago is incredibly unhelpful. Nobody needs to hire someone straight out of law school these days. Most organizations don't have room in the budget to do so, even if they wanted to. Historically, there have always been enough problems with training new grads that organizations (like NRDC, or SELC) have required a few years of private practice litigation experience before they'll take a look at you. That requirement certainly doesn't go away as more experienced attorneys are on the market for a job and are eyeing PI work. Where these NGOs are able to make new hires and don't mind taking on new lawyers, they can be extremely selective (as in, someone with a T6 degree, top grades, significant clinical experience, background in enviro policy, internships with major enviro organizations, and personal connections).

The entry-level legal market is just bad in general across the board right now, which is why you need to ask the schools for information on where the Class of 2010 is going. If you can land an unconditional scholarship at one of the enviro-focused schools and you know you want to work on something specific, like doing conservation easements in some rural area where there are a lack of attorneys willing to do the job, then I think it's an excellent opportunity. But if your goals are more general and you can't get into a program with a better likelihood of a job post-graduation, you need to assume the worst-case scenario and then see if there's something better to do with your time. I say this knowing full well that E-Law is a growth sector, and that there will be plenty of jobs out there in the near future. The gamble is just too high once you see what the job statistics really look like. Which gets me (finally, and per usual I apologize for the lack of brevity) to

Job Stats
If you read the statement's Pace's Career Services Dean recently submitted to the ABA on why the school can't collect better employment data (see here http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education.html), I think you'll find some interesting comments on the nature of the job market. Of note is the fact that many Pace grads don't secure permanent work until up to 1.5 years after graduation. She also states that current and prospective students "have either unreasonable expectations or no expectations about what it is they will be doing after law school and how much money they will make." It's odd that she says their expectations are unreasonable, given how Pace presents its job statistics. The school advertises an 88.1% employment rate 9 months after graduation, a median starting salary of $62,000 for private sector grads, and a very respectable $50K for public interest grads (http://web.pace.edu/page.cfm?doc_id=36040). These statistics probably look decent to graduates, but they're only based on about a third of the class reporting. The kicker is they don't tell you that only a third of the class reported, leading many prospectives to assume this must be the whole picture. She also laments that there's a limit to the jobs her office can get for their graduates, given that career services officers "have no say in who is admitted to the law school." This presumably is an admission that the school doesn't bring in the type of talent her office needs in order to help them find jobs, which is an even stronger argument for going to a school where employers are more likely to take a serious look at you.

That said, all is not lost. I think if someone were to contact Dean Littman asking for more detailed job placement information and expressing your concerns about how the data is currently presented on the website, you might convince her to provide you with better info. She has gone on the record calling for improved disclosure methods, so now it's only a matter of seeing whether or not she is sincere about it. If she can provide you with a list of employers, you can contact those employers before enrolling and see what qualifications they want to see. Then you can really start to formulate your plan for gaining experience/saving money, and it won't feel like you're doing it just because some people on TLS told you to. G'luck.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:43 pm 
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Didn't mean to only single out Pace, but neither of the other two have gone on the record yet about job placement. For more about the salary stats and how unrepresentative they are of the entire graduating class at all three schools, take a look here:


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:53 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:55 pm 
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lwaring1 wrote:
I'm not trying to be annoying (seriously, I am interested in learning about these issues/options also), but you are ignoring a large part of my argument: LRAPs at top law schools account for a good part of the expense discrepancy compared to most policy programs that wouldn't offer such generous repayment programs (at least as far as I've seen).

Also, pursuing a law degree provides two summers "to work and mak[e] connections."

And last, getting back to the OP's original statement of being interested in "environmental law and policy," all our arguments about whether a JD is the best route for policy might be irrelevant if s/he is more interested in actual legal work.

Thanks for a good discussion, everybody.

i just think it's an ass-backwards way to get into policy, coming from someone who worked in public policy.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 15, 2010 2:29 am 
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IAFG wrote:
lwaring1 wrote:
I'm not trying to be annoying (seriously, I am interested in learning about these issues/options also), but you are ignoring a large part of my argument: LRAPs at top law schools account for a good part of the expense discrepancy compared to most policy programs that wouldn't offer such generous repayment programs (at least as far as I've seen).

Also, pursuing a law degree provides two summers "to work and mak[e] connections."

And last, getting back to the OP's original statement of being interested in "environmental law and policy," all our arguments about whether a JD is the best route for policy might be irrelevant if s/he is more interested in actual legal work.

Thanks for a good discussion, everybody.

i just think it's an ass-backwards way to get into policy, coming from someone who worked in public policy.

Ditto, from someone with a master's in policy and job experience in policy. Why spent two summers making connections when you could spend everyday for the next two years?


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:22 pm 
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So I was researching Pace Law School's joint degree programs and they have a joint degree with their Policy School where you can recieve a JD/MS in climate science and policy. After I delved a bit further into this masters program I couldnt help but feel like I would be better off just doing this masters program. Does anyone know if a career in policy/climate scientist/analyst/consultant is a lucractive profession? I don't know how much Pace Law Schools environmental law program will help me do the kind of work I want to do, seeing how it is such a low ranking school. I have been contemplating possibly applying to the MS program, seeing how my first semester/year goes and try and speak with as many teachers and students about whether the joint degree option would be beneficial, or if I would be able to branch into policy/consulting without it.

The only thing holding me back from doing this is I just don't know if I would be better served getting JD over a MS or getting a MS over a joint JD/MS.... I just don't know with Paces' low rank and the extra year and student loans the joint program will take... but than the MS program is only 2 years... dam life is confusing... Thanks to everyone with all the advice and suggestions....


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:27 pm 
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sorry to double post...

but if i call the career development center at the law school, how should i taylor my questions to get legitimate and candid answers from them? what should I even ask?

this same question goes for the policy school as well...

Thanks


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:32 pm 
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OP, if you want a lucrative career in something energy and environment related, get an MBA and go be an energy trader. Otherwise, if you get a policy job with the feds, expect after several years to top out, if you're lucky, around $120k. You can expect to make less if you're employed by a state or local jurisdiction.

I'm not sure what the top salary is for private consultants in the climate field, but I'd be surprised, from what little I know, if it were much more than that, or even that.

BTW, for what you want to do, have you checked out the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara? Might up what you're looking for.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 2:38 pm 
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If you are interested in assessing the relative merits and job opportunities of environmental law programs, you should check out my Environmental Law Preference Rankings from last year: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tXWyWMzdoyb7k-UKYdEBzQQ&gid=0.

Also, if you want to get into environmental policy, there are a number of great programs out there. I did the Climate & Society MA program at Columbia University, and I found it to be an incredibly rewarding and academically challenging experience. I got to serve as a consultant for the UNDP, take classes at the School of International and Public Affairs, and meet people from all around the world. You can learn more about the program here: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/climatesociety/.

Finally, I don't know what kind of money people think constitutes a good living, but working for the Fed and topping out at $120k is not exactly meager pay, especially when you consider benefits, pension, etc. You could always go into the private sector after working for the government if you need to make Tobacco lobbyist money (I suppose...). For environmental consultants, you would similarly top out at $100k or so unless you go into corporate leadership. All I can say is that living off of $17k a year as a PhD student, I can't imagine how ridiculously wealthy I would feel making even $40k. I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

If you have any more questions, feel free to PM me.


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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 10:48 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Is environmental law a good specialization to get into?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 11:31 pm 
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If you can get that much ... GS-15 step 10 is $129k. If you have a master's in policy, you can expect to start out about GS 7, 8, or 9, depending on position, for a federal gig. That's about $40k to $50k to start. You could go your entire career and never make it to 15; if you top out at 13, that's about $80k.

Raising a family of four or five in the DC area on $80k a year isn't poverty, but it's not exactly "the good life" -- to me, anyway. I don't need to be Donald Trump, but I'm hoping for a better outcome than that.


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