Where Did the Top Environmental Lawyers Go to College?

A look at the law schools behind the 500 leading environmental attorneys

Taylor Nichols By: Taylor Nichols | Published: January 28, 2022
Statue of justice

Key Insights:

  • Harvard was the top school, and alma mater to the most nonprofit lawyers
  • Lewis & Clark Law, known for its environmental programs, out-performed NYU Law and Michigan Law
  • Texas Law ranked third with the highest rate of environmental lawyers at large firms

The field of environmental law has grown continuously over the last 50 years. The United Nations Environment Programme noted that the number of laws related to climate and environment grew by 38 times from 1972 to 2019. However, when it comes to implementing and enforcing, society has fallen short.

As we gain a better understanding of environmental issues and increasingly experience the impacts of climate change, the need for lawyers specializing in the field also continues to grow.

Many of the significant changes we've seen to environmental and climate policy are thanks to legal battles fought by attorneys at nonprofits, environmental firms, government organizations, and large firms representing major clients.

This year, LawDragon released its list of the top 500 environmental and energy lawyers, noting that it features some of the youngest attorneys ever recognized in their rankings.

While there are many rankings of the top schools for environmental law, there is limited data available on the best path to becoming a successful environmental attorney. We analyzed the educational backgrounds of the LawDragon 500 environmental lawyers to highlight the top colleges behind these industry leaders.

Top Law Schools Behind the 500 Leading Environtmental Attorneys

Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest and most prestigious law schools produced the highest rate of top environmental lawyers, likely due in part to their size, quality, and name recognition.

Harvard University, Georgetown University, New York University, and the University of Michigan, all of which appear here, are among the largest law schools and are often highly ranked.

However, we did have a few surprising finds. The University of Texas at Austin and Lewis & Clark College in Oregon both produced a high number of leading environmental attorneys despite significantly smaller enrollment numbers and less prestige in national law school rankings.

Can Higher Education Keep Pace with a Growing Need for Environmental Lawyers?

The intersection between the environment and the law provides a complex space for attorneys and legal educators. While our knowledge about climate, energy, and related technologies grows rapidly each year, the legal industry and higher education often move very slowly in comparison.

Given the fact that the majority of these attorneys graduated before the year 2000, it's likely that many of them didn't have the opportunity to pursue an environmental law program at their school.

However, today many of the top law schools have at least incorporated a specialization into their JD program or launched an LLM in environmental law. Other schools, like Lewis & Clark Law, have carved out a solid reputation in the industry.

While there are far more education options for today's JD candidates pursuing a career in environmental law, this research highlights law schools with a strong track record of producing the top attorneys in the industry.

Related Read: Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Environmental Science

Methodology

Our data team manually researched education backgrounds for each attorney on the LawDragon 500 Leading Environmental and Energy Lawyers list using company websites and LinkedIn profiles. The university where the attorney earned their Juris Doctor and the year they graduated, if available, were collected. For graduates of the 10 schools with the highest rate of alumni on the list, additional data was gathered on what type of firm or organization they work for. Data collection occurred from January 12-26, 2022.

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