Water Rights Lawyer: Job Duties & Career Info

Learn what's required to get a job as a water rights lawyer. Find out what the career prospects and earning potential are to see if this field is a good fit for you.

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Career Definition for a Water Rights Lawyer

A water rights lawyer deals with the control, use, and ownership of water as a resource. A water rights lawyer must also be aware of the current policies and legal debates and understand the history of politics and water development in the United States. He or she may represent government agencies, private landowners, businesses or environmental watchdog groups.

Education Post-baccalaureate Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree
Job Skills Knowledge of property and environmental law, aware of the demand and role of water, and good communication skills
Mean Salary (2015)* $136,260 (for lawyers)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (for lawyers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

The required education for a career as a water rights lawyer is a post-baccalaureate Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Topics studied in this 3-year degree program may include water law policy, environmental law, environmental policy, and climate change.

Required Licensure

Attorneys are required to hold a license issued by the state in which they wish to work. Qualifications for a law license can vary by state but typically include earning a passing score on an exam, commonly known as the bar exam.

Skills Required

To be a water rights lawyer, you must have a strong grasp of both property law and environmental law. You must be aware of the demand for water and the role it plays with businesses and society. Excellent communication skills are needed to argue cases in open court and effectively work with clients.

Economic and Career Outlook

Water rights lawyers commonly work in areas where conservation, drought, and property rights are hot-button issues. These areas include the arid Western U.S., the Southern U.S. and some larger metropolitan areas, like New York and Washington D.C.

Career opportunities for all lawyers were expected to grow 6% from 2014-2024, although competition for positions will be fierce as more law students graduate than ever before, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov. The BLS reported the mean annual salary for lawyers as of May 2015 was $136,260.

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Alternate Career Options

Careers similar to a water rights lawyer include:

Mediator

A mediator assists people in working out a resolution to conflict. The mediator guides the mediation process and helps parties define the crux of the issue to establish a formal solution that's mutually agreed upon by both sides. A mediator may find employment with local or state agencies or with legal services firms. There's no formal education path to a career as a mediator, although possession of a bachelor's degree is common. Some mediators have a law degree and others have a Master of Business Administration or another degree relevant to the field in which they might specialize. Some schools offer certificate and graduate degree programs in conflict resolution. Mediators in some states are required to meet training or experience minimums; some states also have licensing requirements. Mediators can expect job growth of 9% from 2014-2024, per the BLS. The mean salary of mediators was $69,060 in 2015, per the BLS.

Paralegal

Paralegals work under the direction of licensed attorneys to provide key administrative support. Paralegals may help lawyers by gathering research, filing legal documents, and writing reports. They may coordinate meetings with clients and others involved in legal cases, and provide on-hand support in courtrooms, such as taking notes, preparing materials that will be used in court, and arranging for tech needs. Paralegals generally hold an associate's degree or greater in paralegal studies; employment is also possible with a bachelor's degree in any field and completion of a certificate program. Previous relevant experience may be highly valued by employers; paralegals can also earn voluntary certification. The BLS reports that paralegals can look forward to job growth of 8% from 2014-2024. Paralegals earned average pay of $52,390 in 2015.

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