Environmental Law Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

The regulations that govern how an individual or a corporation should interact with the natural environment form the basis of environmental law. Juris Doctor (J.D.) programs in environmental law prepare students to practice law, either in private practice or in government service, and engage with public policy development; Master of Laws (LL.M.), prepare students to teach law and conduct scholarly research.

Top 10 Environmental Law Schools

According to 2016 U.S. News and World Report rankings, the following institutions are the top schools for studying environmental law in the United States.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered* Tuition (2015-2016)**
Vermont Law School South Royalton, VT 4-year, private not-for-profit J.D., Master's, LL.M $47,873
Lewis & Clark College Portland, OR 4-year, private not-for-profit J.D., LL.M., joint J.D./LL.M., Master's $41,328
Pace University White Plains, NY 4-year, private not-for-profit J.D. $45,376
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA 4-year, public J.D. $48,679 in-state, $52,630 out-of-state
Georgetown University Washington, DC 4-year, private not-for-profit J.D., LL.M. $55,255
University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 4-year, public J.D. $45,284 in-state, $51,778 out-of-state
University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT 4-year, public J.D. with certificate $25,752 in-state, $48,908 out-of-state
George Washington University Washington, DC 4-year, private not-for-profit LL.M. $54,114
University of Colorado-Boulder Boulder, CO 4-year, public J.D./Master's, J.D./Ph.D. $31,864 in-state, $38,650 out-of-state
Tulane University New Orleans, LA 4-year, private not-for-profit J.D. with certificate, LL.M. $51,130

Sources: *School websites, **U.S. News and World Report

School Selection Criteria

When choosing an institution at which to study environmental law, students may want to keep the following considerations in mind:

  • A student's professional objectives and current level of completed study may influence which type of environmental law program- J.D. or LL.M.- to pursue.
  • When choosing a school, students might want to consider whether a given law school has an environmental law clinic or research center. If not, they might want to find out if courses are available in environmental law or if the school has a joint J.D. and environmental science degree program.
  • Students may want to review law school rankings when determining which school to attend. Rankings are often subject-specific, and a law school that is good for tax law may not be the right school for environmental law.
  • Students should consider the financial aid opportunities at the law schools they are considering. For instance, some schools offer incentives in the form of special loan programs or loan forgiveness to students who intend to pursue careers in public service.

Juris Doctor in Environmental Law

In a J.D. program, students take courses in civil, constitutional, administrative and intellectual property law. Then, they take specific elective courses in environmental law. Completing a bachelor's degree and sitting the LSAT are required prior to beginning a J.D.

Master of Laws in Environmental Law

The LL.M. prepares graduates for careers in environmental law policy development and in private practice. Students enrolled in an LL.M. program in environmental law receive training in the economic, political and scientific aspects of the field. Traditionally, an LL.M. program in environmental law can be completed in one year of full-time work, but it can take 2-3 years of part-time study. Students must hold a J.D. in order to enroll in an LL.M.

Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) in Environmental Law

The S.J.D. is a terminal law degree and prepares graduates for careers as researchers and scholars. Most S.J.D. programs require at least one year of full-time residency in addition to the time necessary to complete a dissertation on a topic of interest. Admission to S.J.D. programs is highly competitive, and often only 2-3 students are enrolled in a program. A J.D. and an LL.M., along with evidence of extensive professional achievement, are required for admission to an S.J.D. program.

There are multiple graduate-level educational options for students who want to study environmental law, preparing them for different careers within the field. School rankings, environmental law experiential opportunities, and financial aid options may all be factors in students' decision on where to study.

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