Best Environmental Law Schools

Updated on January 5, 2024

Environmental law is a growing and important field that helps shape public policy and corporate behavior to protect the environment. For students interested in pursuing environmental law, choosing the right law school is key. The following are 10 of the top environmental law schools based on factors like specialized programming, externship opportunities, and career outcomes.

Vermont Law School

Location: South Royalton, VT

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 66%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $52,994 per year

Avg Salary: $70,000


Description: Vermont Law School is widely considered one of the best environmental law schools. It offers a Master’s of Environmental Law and Policy for JD students along with 9 environmental law clinics and externships. The school also houses the top-ranked environmental law journal in the country.

Lewis & Clark Law School

Location: Portland, OR

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 66%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $52,230 per year

Avg Salary: $80,000


Description: Lewis & Clark stands out for its environmental and natural resources law program. JD students can earn certificates in these areas and put their skills into practice through externships and clinics focused on issues like energy law and environmental litigation.

UC Berkeley School of Law

Location: Berkeley, CA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 25%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $53,500 per year

Avg Salary: $155,000


Description: As part of UC Berkeley, the law school provides unmatched opportunities for environmental law research and real-world experience in the field through clinics and externships in California. It also allows students to take environmental science courses needed for an environmental law career.

University of Oregon School of Law

Location: Eugene, OR

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 80%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $38,000 per year

Avg Salary: $80,000


Description: The University of Oregon School of Law’s location provides ample externship opportunities with government agencies and nonprofits. Its environmental and natural resources law program allows students to obtain joint degrees in other related areas like conflict and dispute resolution.

Pace Law School

Location: White Plains, NY

Rating: 7/10

Acceptance Rate: 37%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $50,564 per year

Avg Salary: $80,000


Description: Pace Law School houses four environmental law clinics and is home to the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, the first of its kind in the nation. This experiential learning gives students robust real-world environmental law experience.

Florida State University College of Law

Location: Tallahassee, FL

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 42%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $23,980 per year

Avg Salary: $73,500


Description: Florida State University offers a certificate in environmental, energy, and land use law. Its location provides opportunities to extern and clinic with agencies like the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

University of Hawaii at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law

Location: Honolulu, HI

Rating: 6/10

Acceptance Rate: 48%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $23,480 per year

Avg Salary: $70,000


Description: Located in Hawaii, students can extern and clinic directly on environmental issues affecting the island ecosystems. The school also hosts the annual IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium in partnership with international environmental organizations.

American University Washington College of Law

Location: Washington, DC

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 43%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $57,820 per year

Avg Salary: $118,000


Description: This Washington DC law school provides unparalleled opportunities to extern directly with federal agencies like the EPA. They also offer robust environmental law clinics and publish the Sustainable Development Law Journal.

Yale Law School

Location: New Haven, CT

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $66,128 per year

Avg Salary: $193,000


Description: Yale Law School is world renowned and houses the internationally focused Environmental Protection Clinic allowing students to work across borders on major environmental cases and policy initiatives.

Stanford Law School

Location: Stanford, CA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Avg SAT Score: N/A

Tuition: $65,875 per year

Avg Salary: $190,000


Description: Stanford Law’s location in the technology hub of the world provides unmatched opportunities for tech-focused environmental law study. Its clinics focus on issues like environmental decision-making and international environmental disputes.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is environmental law?

Environmental law is focused on regulations and policies designed to protect the environment and mitigate human impact, like pollution control laws. It involves aspects of energy, natural resources, public health, and more.

What degree do you need?

You need a Juris Doctor (JD) law degree to practice environmental law. Some programs allow you to earn joint master’s degrees in related areas or certificates in environmental law specifically during your JD.

What does an environmental lawyer do?

Environmental lawyers represent clients in issues relating to environmental regulations and policies. They may work for government, corporations, nonprofits, or law firms on issues like pollution remediation, climate change policy, endangered species protection, and energy regulations.

What skills are important?

Knowledge of environmental science and policy along with litigation, regulatory compliance, legislation analysis, writing, research, critical thinking, and communication skills are all important for environmental lawyers.

How much do environmental lawyers make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for lawyers in 2021 was $127,990 per year. Those specializing in environmental law tend to make around $70,000 to $118,000 per year on average depending on exact position and experience.

What are some common entry-level environmental law jobs?

Many first environmental law jobs out of law school are as associates at law firms, judicial clerks, public interest positions, or roles in environmental consulting or regulatory agencies. Experience in law school clinics also helps secure initial placements.

Do you need an undergraduate degree in environmental science or policy?

No, students come to environmental law from a wide range of backgrounds including political science, economics, engineering, and more – but some background in environmental topics can be helpful preparation.

Should I get a master’s degree first or go straight to law school?

It depends on your goals – joint degree programs allow you to work towards your JD and an environmental related master’s concurrently. But the JD alone is sufficient for most environmental law careers – prior master’s degrees are not an explicit requirement.

What classes should I take in law school to focus in environmental law?

Good environmental law classes in law school include environmental law and policy seminars, natural resources law, energy law, international environmental law, environmental practice, and participation in related clinics or externships.

How competitive are top environmental law programs?

Very – programs at schools like Yale, Stanford, UC Berkeley are exceptionally competitive with low acceptance rates under 10-15% typically. Strong LSAT scores, GPAs, experience, writing skills and great recommendations letters are essential.

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