Environmental Law Curriculum Guide

Lewis & Clark Law School provides one of the most extensive year-round environmental, natural resources, and energy law curriculum in the United States. This guide is for the use of Lewis & Clark Law students in course planning. Students are encouraged to supplement its advice by talking with staff and faculty of the environmental law program, as well as alumni and fellow students.

An environmental lawyer is first a lawyer, and the law is sufficiently intertwined that you cannot be a good environmental lawyer if you are not conversant in the law in general. The Environmental Law program imposes minimal course requirements for its certificates in order to provide maximum flexibility to students in designing a course of study suited to their individual needs and interests. 

It may be obvious that in order to litigate environmental law cases you will need Civil Procedure and Evidence, and maybe Federal Jurisdiction and Trial Practice, not just Environmental Litigation. It is less obvious, but equally true, that environmental lawyers need to take business and commercial courses. A lawyer assisting the Nature Conservancy will need to understand income taxation and real estate transactions; a lawyer suing for environmental torts may need to understand the implications of the defendant declaring bankruptcy. Even a course like Wills and Trusts can be very useful to an environmental lawyer associated with nonprofit organizations. In short, everyone should get a broad understanding of the basic areas of the law, which will incidentally help you on the bar exam. Getting a broad understanding of the law will not fill up your schedule; there will be time for a number of environmental law courses as well.

Traditionally, “environmental law” was the umbrella term referring to environmental protection laws (mostly dealing with the regulation of pollution of land, air and water), and “natural resources law” was the umbrella term for laws regulating the use of various natural resources. Unlike most law schools with environmental or natural resources law programs, we do not stress environmental law versus natural resources law. Both are given equal importance because we view them as integrally related. As a result, we use these terms interchangeably. While we do not require any particular balancing between these areas, students who are most interested in environmental law should probably take at least one natural resources course, such as Public Lands, Natural Resources Law, Water Law, or Wildlife Law in order to get some exposure to a resources course. Similarly, students most interested in natural resources law should take at least the Environmental Law course and perhaps Hazardous Waste Law. Students interested in Energy Law will want to take the foundational Energy Law course which covers the legal, economic, and structural issues involved in electricity regulation and policy, as well as Renewable Energy Law and Policy which covers the law and policies designed to promote renewable energy development. Students who do not wish to emphasize a particular area should fee free not to do so.

At Lewis & Clark, law students studying for the JD degree can take a few environmental law classes or they can emphasize a particular area of law by earning a certificate in environmental and natural resources law, or energy, innovation, and sustainability law. For more information about all of Lewis & Clark Law school certificate programs and requirements please visit this certificate program page. 

Environmental Law also provides an excellent opportunity for students interested in participating in a law review. The journal is the first in its kind in the nation and enjoys national respect. Students who have the opportunity to participate in law review should do so. It is an excellent learning experience and a valuable credential on your resume.

If you have an area of interest that is not met by an existing class, or you want to engage in some in-depth research and writing, there is always the opportunity to engage in Individual Research for credit under the supervision faculty member. If you have a particular topic in mind, you should fee free to approach a faculty member who teaches in the area, and even if you don’t have a topic in mind you can approach faculty members for ideas. You can also contact the program director or associate director for information about the various areas of faculty expertise and interest.

In regards to the order of taking classes, with a few exceptions, we do not require a particular course as a prerequisite for another. We design courses so that other courses do not need to be taken first. Nevertheless, we would advise students that Administrative Law be taken before or coincident with Environmental Law, and that Environmental Law be taken before or coincident with upper level environmental law courses if possible.

We also offer a myriad of legal practicums, externships, clinics, and moot court opportunities in environmental law.  For the most updated listing visit our Clinics and Practical Skills page.

Consult our list of environmental law curriculum and the most recent “Three Year Plan” for more detail as some courses are offered every year, some every other year, and some periodically. Additional courses are offered each summer and may count towards a Certificate. 

Natural Resources, Environmental, and Energy Law Faculty & Staff