Best Law Schools for Environmental Law in the US

Environmental law focuses on the interplay between humans and the environment. With ongoing debates surrounding climate change, environmental law is quickly becoming one of the most relevant and highly sought law school concentrations. Careers in environmental law can follow many paths. Some environmental lawyers work as advisors to businesses and corporations. Others represent individuals in environmental lawsuits. Organizations that champion environmental protection also abound, as do opportunities to make a change in government agencies and policy roles. 

A strong environmental law program teaches students how to navigate this ever-shifting landscape. In addition to a strong environmental law curriculum, top schools offer environmental law institutes, climate centers, and the opportunity to learn from leaders in the field. The following ten law schools offer some of the nation’s best environmental law programs.

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Lewis & Clark Law School

Lewis & Clark Law School's outdoor amphitheater
Lewis & Clark Law School's outdoor amphitheater.

 Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Lbcstud562

Lewis & Clark Law School offers a robust program in environmental law. The school boasts a year-round curriculum—thanks to its Environmental Law Summer School—and offers forward-thinking courses in environmental law, natural resources, and energy law.

In addition to its J.D. program, Lewis & Clark has environmental law certificate programs, an LL.M. in Environmental Law, an online LL.M. program, and a Master of Studies in Environmental Law for non-lawyers.

Students at Lewis & Clark Law School can get involved through several environmental student groups. Some of these include Student Advocates for Business and Environmental Responsibility (SABER)Environmental Law Caucus, Public Interest Law Project, and many others.

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Harvard University Law School

Harvard Law School's Langdell Hall
Harvard Law School's Langdell Hall.

Darren McCollester / Getty Images

Harvard Law School offers one of the world’s most innovative and renowned programs in environmental law. The school’s Environmental & Energy Law Program leads policy discussions on environmental, climate, and energy issues, and prepares students to do the same. In addition to numerous courses focused on environmental law, the school offers student fellowships to fund summer work in the public interest environmental law field.

Harvard provides a rigorous practical curriculum through its Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, which trains students to perform actual legal and policy work. Students handle local, national and international projects covering a range of environmental law issues in a variety of settings and gain experience from some of the world’s leading environmental law experts.

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Vermont Law School

Vermont Law School campus, in the South Royalton Historic District, Royalton, Vermont
Part of the Vermont Law School campus, in the South Royalton Historic District, Royalton, Vermont.

Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Magicpiano

Vermont Law School (VLS) offers one of the country’s largest and leading comprehensive environmental law programs. According to VLS, the school offers more degrees, more certificates, more faculty, and more research centers than any other school focused on environmental law.

Through the Environmental Law Center, students at VLS delve into critical environmental issues concerning climate, energy, land use, and more. Beyond regular courses throughout the academic year, Vermont’s Environmental Law Center also assembles a summer session, which is focused specifically on environmental law and policy issues. 

In addition to its J.D. program, VLS also offers a Master of Environmental Law and Policy program, which is focused on advocacy, regulations, legislation, and markets.

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University of California—Berkeley School of Law

Boalt Hall, University of California Berkeley Law School
Boalt Hall, University of California Berkeley Law School.

Wikimedia commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Art Anderson 

Berkeley Law has long offered one of the nation’s preeminent environmental law programs. The school's curriculum equips students through practical training and interdisciplinary research via its Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE). 

Students also have the opportunity to join the Berkeley Ecology Law Quarterly (ELQ), one of the nation’s leading, entirely student-run environmental law journals. Berkeley also has an active, student-led Environmental Law Society. 

Additionally, the Environmental Law and Policy Program sponsors a series of public lectures on environmental law, which gives students further insight into vital policy issues. In addition to its environmental law program, Berkeley also offers an Energy Law Program, which focuses on energy regulation, renewable energy and alternative fuels, and energy project finance.

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University of California—Los Angeles School of Law

UCLA School of Law
The south entrance to the UCLA School of Law on the campus of the University of California in Westwood.

 Wikimedia commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Coolcaesar

The University of California—Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law offers a comprehensive environmental law program. Courses include Environmental Law, the Environmental Law Clinic, International Environmental Law, Land Use, Public Natural Resources Law and Policy and more.

UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment studies climate change and other pressing environmental issues. Students also have the opportunity to participate in the Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, one of the nation’s most reputable student-led environmental publications. 

A preeminent research institution, UCLA offers law students opportunities through partnerships with its other schools including the Sustainable Technology & Policy Program, a collaboration with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

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University of Oregon School of Law

University of Oregon Law School
University of Oregon Law School.

 Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Visitor7

The University of Oregon School of Law operates another forward-thinking environmental law program. The school has a long-standing program and a robust curriculum that has educated some of today’s most influential environmental lawyers. Oregon Law students have the opportunity to choose from seven multidisciplinary research projects: Conservation Trust; Energy Law and Policy; Food Resiliency; Global Environmental Democracy; Native Environmental Sovereignty; Oceans, Coasts, and Watersheds; and Sustainable Land Use.

The Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation allows students to strengthen their research, writing, and editing skills while increasing their knowledge of environmental law. 

Oregon’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law (ENR) Center focuses on public interest environmental law and provides students practical experience while exposing them to the latest environmental law issues.

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Georgetown University School of Law

Georgetown University Law Center Campus
Georgetown University Law Center Campus.

Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Karatershel 

Georgetown University School of Law provides an extensive environmental law curriculum. With its Washington, D.C., location, the school’s Environmental Law & Policy Program provides students unique practice opportunities.

Georgetown offers multi-level courses in domestic and international environmental law, as well as energy, natural resources, land use, historic preservation, and food law. The Georgetown Climate Center is a major influence in the national dialogue surrounding climate change. 

In addition to its Environmental Law J.D., the school also offers an Environmental Law LL.M. Core courses in the Environmental Law J.D. program include Environmental Law, Advanced Environmental Law, International Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law, and the Environmental Research Workshop. Students also have the opportunity to work as environmental advocates in the school’s Institute for Public Representation and Public Policy Clinic.

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Columbia University School of Law

Columbia Law School, Jerome L. Greene Hall.
Columbia Law School, Jerome L. Greene Hall.

 Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Beyond My Ken

Columbia University has long-offered a well-rounded environmental law curriculum. The school’s Environmental and Energy Law program gives students insights into the most cutting-edge environmental issues. In addition to its revered Earth Institute, Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and the Environmental Law Clinic study trends and seek solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental issues.

Columbia Law Clinic students train to become versed in key environmental law issues such as water, wetlands preservation, endangered species, environmental justice, smart growth, and clean air. Students can also participate in a number of extracurricular activities focused on protecting the environment. Through the Environmental Law Society, students can obtain scholarships and fellowships in environmental law and gain advocacy experience.

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University of Colorado—Boulder School of Law

Wolf Law Building, University of Colorado-Boulder
Wolf Law Building, University of Colorado-Boulder.

 Creative Commons / CC0 1.0

Colorado Law offers a unique interdisciplinary approach to environmental law. The school issues several joint degrees, including a Doctor/Master’s in environmental studies (JD/ENVS), a Juris Doctor/Doctorate in Environmental Studies (JD/PhD), and a Juris Doctor/Master of Urban and Regional Planning (JD/MURP). Students can also obtain a Graduate Energy Certificate Program and an Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate Program in Environment, Policy and Society.

Students may also explore their interest in environmental law through Colorado Law’s Natural Resources Clinic and its Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment. Through knowledgeable staff, vigorous curriculum, and proximity to the Rocky Mountains, Colorado’s Natural Resources, Energy, and Environmental Law program prepares students to hit the ground running in law firms, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and governmental agencies.

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New York University School of Law

Vanderbilt Hall, New York University School of Law
Vanderbilt Hall, New York University School of Law.

 NYU School of Law

New York University (NYU) School of Law prepares students for environmental law careers with an innovative curriculum led by some of the nation’s most distinguished scholars. Students learn about some of the most pressing environmental issues through NYU Law’s seminars, which include instruction on food and agricultural law and policy, animal law, and international environmental law.

Students can also gain practical training and experience in NYU’s Frank J. Guarini Center on Environmental, Energy, and Land Use Law and the Institute for Policy Integrity.

The school’s student-run Environmental Law Society is another great way for students to get involved, network, and host environment-friendly initiatives.

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Alnaji, Candace. "Best Law Schools for Environmental Law in the US." ThoughtCo, Feb. 17, 2021, Alnaji, Candace. (2021, February 17). Best Law Schools for Environmental Law in the US. Retrieved from Alnaji, Candace. "Best Law Schools for Environmental Law in the US." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).