Job Watch: Environmental law

As the UK tries to become greener, environmental law is in vogue, but what are the job opportunities in the sector like?

“We’re finding that roles in London are arising mainly from legislative changes in the UK and the US,” says Lynn Crean, a consultant at Pro-Legal. “UK environmental law roles are typically at mid-tier regional practices and the occasional top 20 City firm,” says Rosie Waters of First Counsel. “These vacancies are usually for mid-senior associates or partners. Any need for lawyers under 4 PQE is rare.”

After the property boom

Large firms are not the only place to look for job opportunities, though, she adds.

“Most UK roles are within small standalone teams that are less reliant these days on strong property departments and, instead, have become increasingly aligned to the growth in the energy sector,” continues Waters. “As such, they tend to focus on EU environmental law and climate change law.”

As Crean adds, potential changes in UK legislation could create more work for environmental lawyers in the longer run.

“In the UK the most pressing change has come from Nick Clegg’s announcement that the Government will enact legislation mandating all companies listed on the London Stock Exchange to measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions from April 2013,” says Crean. “While this does not include private companies or those listed on AIM, the position will be reviewed in 2015, and in 2016 the Government will examine whether to extend the legislation to all large companies. The necessary harmonisation with other climate laws will be a fertile area of work.”

Building a future

In the meantime, opportunities may be more fruitful further afield, believes Waters.

“Environmental law has been relatively quiet, particularly in the UK,” she says. “There are many more opportunities in Australia, specifically in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Roles in Australia tend to be at bigger firms and often relate to construction, planning and projects. Usually these vacancies start at 2 PQE.”

The best opportunities in the UK lie with the US firms in London and with top 200 firms with a strong international presence, says Crean.

“Locations such as Surrey and Aberdeen feature as strong locations, whereas internationally Switzerland, Kuwait and UAE are hotspots for candidates,” she adds.

In-house is also throwing up opportunities abroad, Waters says.

“In-house, demand is for those at the senior level with high-calibre City experience in locations such as Qatar, São Paulo and northern Scotland holding the predominance of roles.”

What are the skills needed to make it in this sector then?

“In this area more than any other, job seekers need a working awareness of and sensitivity to global events, decisions and new legislation,” affirms Crean.