Environmental law: area of practice (barristers)
Environmental law is very wide ranging, covering matters such as habitats and species protection, air quality, waste, access to environmental information, nuisance, environment impact assessment, strategic environmental assessment, water pollution and contaminated land. Another area is environmental permitting, whereby processes that have potential environmental impact are granted permits regulating their operation.
An environmental law barrister’s work
The typical case varies greatly in terms of its length and nature but European law is the source of much environmental law and this means advocacy in the European Court of Justice and Court of First Instance.
There is also a significant amount of environmental judicial review in the High Court. Work can also include inquiries and criminal prosecutions. Typical clients include central government (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and the Department of Communities and Local Government) as well as regulators (the Environment Agency, Natural England, local authorities etc) and the regulated (both companies and individuals).
Environmental law at the Bar is centred on court appearances, although advisory work is also an important element. It is a hugely interesting, topical and varied area of practice. However, it is complex – some would say overly complex – and getting to grips with completely new subject matter at short notice can be difficult. As with any specialist area of law at the Bar the hours can be long.
Recent developments in environmental law
Recent legislation includes the Climate Change Act 2008, Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme Order 2010, and Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
Is environmental law recession-proof?
Environmental law is likely to be recession-proof, as environmental issues will continue to have a high priority.
What skills do environmental law barristers need?
- Statutory construction – the process of interpreting statutes – is a key skill.
- Advocacy skills are crucial, as much of the work is court based.
- Environmental law frequently involves science, so a scientific background can be useful but is not essential.
Environmental Law pupillages
Pupils are likely to work normal office hours, though they should expect to be asked to put in longer hours under exceptional circumstances. They might be involved in research, doing work towards drafting a skeleton argument or writing an opinion, and would have plenty of opportunities to see advocacy in environmental cases.
Travel overseas may be a possibility, as pupils could find themselves accompanying more experienced barristers to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
Types of law practised
JAMES MAURICI is a barrister at LANDMARK CHAMBERS and was called in 1996. He has a BA and BCL from the University of Oxford.