Environmental Law

Environmental Law Program

Environmental law plays a major role in structuring the relationship between humans and the world around them. Almost every kind of legal practice today touches some aspect of environmental law.

Lawyers practice environmental law in large and small private law firms, in the offices of in-house corporate counsel in trade associations, in federal, state and local government agencies, in the offices of state attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice, and in many non-governmental organizations. Whether future employment entails advocating the position of a public interest group, a corporate client, a government agency, or a private citizen, the Environmental Law specialization is designed to meet the need for knowledgeable and skillful application of legal principles and techniques to environmental and natural resource problems.

Environmental Law Concentration for J.D. students

The Environmental Law Concentration offers students the opportunity to develop their skills and understanding of environmental law and policy through a structured program of study and experience. Completion of the concentration signals to employers and others that you have developed a rich understanding of the field of environmental law.

Any student wishing to participate in the Environmental Law Concentration, or simply to be informed of Environmental Law Program events, should email the Program Director Jessica Owley (jol@buffalo.edu) as early as possible in their law school career. Upon doing so, students will be assigned a faculty mentor to advise on issues related to the concentration, other program opportunities, and career possibilities. To receive recognition for completing the concentration, law students should include a statement of intent to complete the program to the Registrar's Office no later than their fifth semester.

Contact

Director: Professor Jessica Owley

On this page:

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Apply for a Concentration/Program

To apply for a Concentration or Curricular Program, please submit an online application.

Foundational Courses

To complete the concentration, students must complete 18 total credits, which include the following:

Two of the Following Four Courses

  1. Environmental Law
  2. Natural Resources Law
  3. International Environmental Law
  4. Administrative Law

It is best to take the above courses during the second year in law school because they lay important foundations for more specialized courses. The courses have no prerequisites and can be taken in any order. We recommend that students enroll in all four courses but only two are required.

Research Experience

To fulfill the requirements of the Environmental Law Certificate, students must complete a substantial research paper on a topic in environmental law. Students may choose to satisfy this requirement in four ways

1). Environmental Law Seminar: Students can enroll in a pre-approved environmental law seminar. Offered seminars differ by year and many are included on the list of qualifying classes below. Please check with the Program Director if you are uncertain whether a seminar meets this requirement

2). Environmental Law Paper in a Non-environmental Law Seminar: Students can write a paper on environmental law or policy in connection with any upper-level seminar at the law school. For example, students in Advanced Law and Society Research (LAW 672) could choose an environmental issue for their research paper. Unlike the pre-approved environmental law seminars, this option requires the approval of the seminar instructor and the Program Director.

3). Independent Study: Students can write a paper on environmental law or policy through an independent study. Students will enroll in an independent study with a faculty member serving as the supervisor. The independent study option requires the approval of the Program Director.

4) Law Review Note on an Environmental Topic: Students on the Buffalo Law Review or another law journal may also satisfy this requirement by choosing to write their note on an environmental law topic with approval of the Program Director.

Practical Experience

All students are required to obtain some form of practical experience in environmental law to complete the Program. There are several opportunities in the curriculum. One or more clinical or practicum courses in environmental law are also available each year, (e.g., Environmental Advocacy Clinic, Animal Law Clinic, Puerto Rico Resiliency Clinic, Healthy Homes Legal Practicum), and students are strongly encouraged to take them. Environmental placements are also available through the Externship in Environmental Law. In some cases, students may choose to work in a law firm or legal counsel offices of a government agency, corporation, or nonprofit organization in the summer or during the academic year. For law firm or legal counsel work to count for the program, students must seek approval from the Program Director and document the nature of the environmental work completed. The work must be primarily or exclusively environmental, and a signed letter from the attorney supervisor affirming the work will be required. Such experiences do not carry academic credit but can provide the requisite practical experience to fulfill this requirement. The clinic, practicum, or externship courses will also satisfy the pro bono requirement for applicants to the New York bar.

Electives

In addition to the four core courses and the experiential courses described above, the following courses qualify for credit toward the total requirement of 18 semester hours of academic credit in environmental instruction to complete the Environmental Program. The list of qualifying courses changes as courses move into and out of the curriculum; in any given year, they may include the following:Animal Law

  • Climate Change Law & Policy (Seminar)
  • Current Topics in Environmental Law (Seminar)
  • Environmental Oral Advocacy
  • Greening Buffalo
  • Historic Preservation Law
  • Integrated Environmental Management
  • International Trade and the Environment
  • Israel / Palestine: Environmental Justice (Seminar)
  • Land Use Planning
  • Local Government Law
  • Mass Torts
  • Nonprofit Organizations
  • Regional Economic Development (Seminar)
  • State as Environmental Advocate
  • The End of Nature: Law, Science, and the Environment on a Warming Planet
  • Wildlife and Biodiversity Law

Other courses, both in the law school and in other parts of the University, may also qualify for Program credit. Students wishing to substitute a course should contact the Program Director. Prior permission from the Registrar's Office is required to apply credits from a course taken outside the Law School toward the J.D. degree.

UB has excellent interdisciplinary networks of researchers working on environmental law, policy, and science, and students are encouraged to participate in them as opportunities arise.

Environmental Program Faculty

  • Irus Braverman (law and nature, law and geography, animality)
  • Kim Diana Connolly (environmental law, environmental advocacy, wetlands and coastal law, and legal aspects of healthy housing)
  • Errol Meidinger (environmental law, international environmental law, international trade, private regulation)
  • Jessica Owley (environmental law, Indian law, property)
  • Rick Su (land use law, state and local government)