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khumphri

Environmental Careers that don't deal with the Constitution

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Hi everyone,

I'm looking for some advice. I want to practice Environmental Law but I can't stand Federalism. I just can't deal with Provinces and the Feds squabbling about jurisdiction. So, does anyone have any suggestions about where I should focus my career search if I want to save the planet but I'm not interested in the semantics of the constitution?

Thanks for your advice!!

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"Can't stand federalism"...made me chuckle, for real. Consider practicing in China lol...the CCP issues edicts and everyone follows, those who squabble about jurisdiction are sent to the gulags.

Jokes aside, difficult to think of environmental issues that do not involve federalism. My firm helps small businesses getting permits from municipalities, and even at that level, we are quick to point out that certain environment permits are outside the municipality's jurisdiction because, uh, federalism! In other words, federalism is actively practiced even at the level of environmental issues of small towns, and it gets intensified if your work related to the environment deals with provinces or the feds.

Edited by BeetleGirl
I suck at typing

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2 hours ago, khumphri said:

Hi everyone,

I'm looking for some advice. I want to practice Environmental Law but I can't stand Federalism. I just can't deal with Provinces and the Feds squabbling about jurisdiction. So, does anyone have any suggestions about where I should focus my career search if I want to save the planet but I'm not interested in the semantics of the constitution?

Thanks for your advice!!

Work in private law actions regarding environmental pollution.

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Constitutional issues are less annoying in practice than they are in 1L! Don't sweat it if you find the class annoying now.

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If you are interested in Environmental law you could always consider applying for a position with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. I worked as a Federal Crown Agent in the past and we prosecuted several matters on behalf of Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. However,  as Federal Crown Agents we also prosecuted drug offences, so it wasn't regulatory offences all the time. You could also apply to those agencies directly to be in-house counsel. Prosecuting criminal and federal regulatory offences, as they relate to the environment, was interesting and rewarding work. Not a single constitutional or jurisdictional issue came up over that period of time, so that was a bonus. 

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Leaving aside the legal terminology, and even the specifics, what you're really saying is that you want to work in an area of law that concerns huge, sweeping problems. But you don't want to become involved in any arguments about who is supposed to be responsible for these huge, sweeping problems.

I don't practice in this area of law. But I've never seen any big picture issue that doesn't end up tied to arguments about whose problem it really is. That just doesn't seem realistic to me.

Let me be even more blunt about it. You can't say you want to save the planet but only if it doesn't get too complicated. I mean, you can say it, but everyone you say it to will think you're a giant tool. So, you know. Think about that.

Good luck.

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8 hours ago, artsydork said:

Constitutional issues are less annoying in practice than they are in 1L! Don't sweat it if you find the class annoying now.

I'm just a law student, but I totally believe this. I remember feeling just lukewarm about federalism in Con Law, but I am currently working on an environmental law paper with a huge constitutional law component and I find federalism so much more engaging this time around!

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22 hours ago, khumphri said:

Hi everyone,

I'm looking for some advice. I want to practice Environmental Law but I can't stand Federalism. I just can't deal with Provinces and the Feds squabbling about jurisdiction. So, does anyone have any suggestions about where I should focus my career search if I want to save the planet but I'm not interested in the semantics of the constitution?

Thanks for your advice!!

"Save the planet" is pretty vague! Why do you want to practice Environmental Law? Answer like you have to be as specific as possible. Do you want to prevent development, hold polluters accountable...

Some more localized environmental law happens within land use planning, but a lot of that is done by non-lawyers... often the only lawyer involved is the lawyer representing the guy who wants to turn the wetland into a Hooters. At the tribunal/appeal stage there are lawyers who represent municipalities on land use planning issues. A lot of this type of practice is not going to strike you as "environmental" though. Jurisdictional questions can arise even for very localized environmental matters though - e.g. when it comes to shoreline issues on a lake/waterway you can be dealing with a municipality, the province, or the fed. 

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Not to hijack this thread, but I was wondering what sorts of more public interest oriented environmental law jobs are out there outside of charities like ecojustice, or West Coast Environmental Law? Are there specialized government positions where lawyers conduct environmental litigation in the public interest? Any insight, or in Diplock's case soul-crushing honesty :), would be appreciated. 

Edited by GoblinKing

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13 minutes ago, GoblinKing said:

Not to hijack this thread, but I was wondering what sorts of more public interest oriented environmental law jobs are out there outside of charities like ecojustice, or West Coast Environmental Law? Are there specialized government positions where lawyers conduct environmental litigation in the public interest? Any insight, or in Diplock's case soul-crushing honesty :), would be appreciated. 

There certainly are government lawyers who appear before the courts and admin tribunals, and those government lawyers very much feel that they're acting in the public interest.  But it's the public interest as decided by the elected politicians.

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5 minutes ago, Malicious Prosecutor said:

There certainly are government lawyers who appear before the courts and admin tribunals, and those government lawyers very much feel that they're acting in the public interest.  But it's the public interest as decided by the elected politicians.

Prosecutorial discretion applies to environmental prosecutions at least right? Helps pallat some of the "public interest" views of government at times I can imagine.

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21 hours ago, artsydork said:

Constitutional issues are less annoying in practice than they are in 1L! Don't sweat it if you find the class annoying now.

I can't peel an orange now without thinking of constitutional law.

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6 minutes ago, flyingfish said:

I can't peel an orange now without thinking of constitutional law.

Even if everything else you do is under federal jurisdiction, peeling an orange can be regulated by the province under its powers to regulate in the interest of public health.

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2 hours ago, Malicious Prosecutor said:

There certainly are government lawyers who appear before the courts and admin tribunals, and those government lawyers very much feel that they're acting in the public interest.  But it's the public interest as decided by the elected politicians.

That's an excellent summary that gets right to the heart of the problem. What the hell is "public interest" anyway? It's an important term, but also an inherently subjective one. Like "fairness." People throw about the word "fair" all the time, but we know and understand that it means different things to different people. In fact, we've digested that one well enough that if someone said "I want to be a lawyer litigating on the side of what's fair" we'd immediately recognize that as a juvenile thing to say. Well, time to digest that the same applies to public interest.

I could add several more paragraphs, but they'd just be refining what flows obviously from the above.

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7 minutes ago, Diplock said:

That's an excellent summary that gets right to the heart of the problem. What the hell is "public interest" anyway? It's an important term, but also an inherently subjective one. Like "fairness." People throw about the word "fair" all the time, but we know and understand that it means different things to different people. In fact, we've digested that one well enough that if someone said "I want to be a lawyer litigating on the side of what's fair" we'd immediately recognize that as a juvenile thing to say. Well, time to digest that the same applies to public interest.

I could add several more paragraphs, but they'd just be refining what flows obviously from the above.

There's a lot to say on this. The immediate thing would be to distinguish between "fair" and "public interest" (in a government context). This is on the basis that the former can be cloaked as "objective" under a subjective rant, but that the latter is at the very least something that is grounded in "morality" as it is derived from democratic majority rule.

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On 12/9/2020 at 12:57 PM, GoblinKing said:

Not to hijack this thread, but I was wondering what sorts of more public interest oriented environmental law jobs are out there outside of charities like ecojustice, or West Coast Environmental Law? Are there specialized government positions where lawyers conduct environmental litigation in the public interest? Any insight, or in Diplock's case soul-crushing honesty :), would be appreciated. 

Speaking of which, Ecojustice is hiring counsel.

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You should check out this program run by UVic. Its a shared articling program where you get rotated to different firms/groups.

I'm in the same boat as you although I enjoy the constitutional dimension. I assume you were exposed to the GHG case? There's just going to be more of these types of cases and litigation on the subject; many with different angles. For example there's another case called La Rose v Canada which is a private action brought on by kids against the government, and its going to the Federal Court of Appeals. 

Anyways here's the link to the program. 

https://elc.uvic.ca/programs/articling/

On 12/9/2020 at 1:18 PM, pzabbythesecond said:

Prosecutorial discretion applies to environmental prosecutions at least right? Helps pallat some of the "public interest" views of government at times I can imagine.

Interesting that you brought this up. In the US, prosecutors do not have discretion because of fiduciary obligations under something called the public trust doctrine. State AGs must bring action on the people's behalf if citizens are petitioning for it. It leads to pretty interesting situations where you have GOP governors being forced to bring action for causes they completely oppose. E.g. the Gulf Oil Spill saw southern 'business-friendly' states sue BP, against the wishes of their state governors. 

We are a little behind, but we probably will be getting there given how prominent environmental law is becoming due to the ecological crisis. I'm always met with old-timers in the field who are pretty skeptical or dismissive of the political gravity of the ecological situation generally, including within environmental law itself. But its a simple matter of time until it becomes the only issue that matters and where everything has to square up with the environmental movement. 

Edited by mazzystar
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