Environmental Lawyer

The South African constitution enshrines the right of all people to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being and one that is protected for current and future generations. This right devolves into various other laws intended to prevent environmental degradation and pollution, promote conservation and sustainable development an enable sustainable access and use of natural resources that support livelihoods. Environmental law involves the application of the law to ensure human and environmental rights.

Environmental lawyers provide legal advice, prepare and draft legal documents and conduct negotiations on behalf of clients on matters associated with the law and the environment. They develop policies and engage in litigation that prevents further environmental damage, enforce environmental compliance and ensure that people have access to natural resources or are adequately compensated for any loss resulting from transgressions.

Environmental lawyers work mostly in office environments, travelling to sites of complaints and transgressions to gather further evidence and information and court for litigation. They can sometimes engage various stakeholders to obtain additional insight into environmental cases.

Skills

Environmental lawyers must have a detailed knowledge of human rights, environmental and administrative laws and understand legal and procedural requirements for environmental decision-making, coupled with:

  • Excellent legal research competence
  • Objective analytical ability and attention to detail
  • Strong networking and interpersonal skills
  • Excellent writing competence 

Tasks

Provide legal research and opinion on environmental matters

Compile evidence and interview clients, witnesses and persons of interest

Counsel and advise clients that seek environmental law input 

Negotiate legal agreements and liaise between stakeholders

Studies

LLB., LLM. in Environmental Law at NWU, RU, UCT, UKZN, UL, UP, Wits and UWC

Employers

National, provincial and local government.

Private practice law firms.

NGOs, civil society and advocacy agencies.

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