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Environmental Law

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Advising Contacts

Career Development Office Faculty
  • Michael A. Perino (Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, George W. Matheson Professor of Law)


Environmental law is an expanding field that is concerned with a wide range of activities and their effects on health and the environment. The law was basically invented in the U.S. between 1960 and 1980, with legislation that elaborates on common law duties and mandates regulatory development and enforcement. Countries around the world have copied U.S. environmental law and it continues to evolve in tandem with international law and in response to scientific, economic and social changes. Today, environmental law affects a number of other legal areas, from real estate planning and land use, to public health, consumer and animal protection, corporate law, securities and criminal law, energy law and regulation of manufacturing and agriculture.

Environmental lawyers work in a variety of settings. Most large firms have environmental specialists and some medium and small firms focus on environmental law. Large companies commonly maintain in-house environmental counsel or rely on services from environmental consulting firms (e.g., Ernst & Young’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services). Environmental regulation and enforcement takes place at all levels of government, from federal agencies (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy), state agencies (e.g., the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYS Attorney General) and county and city level agencies (e.g., the NYC Department of Environmental Protection). Non-Governmental Organizations (or NGOs), such as the Sierra Club, Hudson Riverkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife and others, are also essential actors in this field of law.

There are numerous professional organizations (e.g., the NYC Bar Association, the NYS Bar Association and county bar associations) with active environmental sections and committees. These professional organizations generally are not divided by plaintiff and defendant representation and lawyers regularly collaborate to develop solutions to environmental problems. Leading NGOs are also active in these bar associations.

The basic Environmental Law course surveys the foundations and structure of U.S. environmental law. For instance, it covers the basic federal statutory schemes, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and others. It also traces scientific and economic debates over how to manage newly understood problems, such as the uncertain health effects of low-level chemical exposures, long term climate change and the ecosystem-management role of top predators, such as wolves. Appropriate responses to new developments are being worked out within the context of existing and emerging environmental understanding. Many environmental lawyers appreciate that they are proactively involved in solving environmental problems and each case presents new learning opportunities and challenges.

If you plan to practice environmental law, you should take the Environmental Law courses and also develop a broad foundation by taking a variety of core courses. At the same time, if you plan to specialize in another field or be in general practice, having some environmental expertise will be an asset.


Foundation Courses
All are strongly recommended and should be taken in the upper-level years.
Advanced Courses
Advanced coursework that will build your substantive knowledge in this pathway.
  • Environmental Law
  • Administrative Law
  • Business Organizations
  • Evidence
  • International Law
  • Introduction to Intellectual Property
  • International Environmental Law
  • Land Use Planning

Course Descriptions


Externships place students in a wide variety of not-for-profit, government, public interest, and private organizations and firms, where they work directly under the supervision of a practicing attorney.  The external placements are bolstered by an in-school seminar in which students analyze their practical experiences and gain skills necessary for the profession.


Students should seek out connections with practitioners and other students, both at St. John’s and externally. Professional bar associations also welcome student participation and offer reduced membership rates for students. Some bar sections and committees look for students to provide research or other assistance on projects. St. John’s faculty is also an essential resource. Students should make an effort to get to know faculty who teach and have experience in their chosen areas. Finally, students should connect with other students who share similar interests through student organizations and attendance at Law School events.

Professional Organizations

Student Organizations

Environmental Law Society

Suggested Path

Part-time students should spread out the suggested path below to account for their expected date of graduation.

Year Fall Spring Summer
  • Required courses
  • Pro bono
  • Required courses
  • Pro bono
  • Internship in Environmental Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Core elective
  • International Law
  • Electives
  • International Environmental Law
  • Core elective
  • APWR course
  • Electives or externship or internship in Environmental Law
  • Internship in Environmental Law
  • Complete SWR On Environmental Law
  • Core elective
  • Electives or externship or internship in Environmental Law
  • New York Practice or Federal Practice
  • Electives or externship or internship in Environmental Law
  • Graduation
  • Bar Exam

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