Environmental lawyers work on cases pertaining to air quality or the protection of other aspects of the environment -- including rivers, mountains and wildlife -- which are impacted by industry and human activity. Whether they're working for government agencies to enforce regulations on pollution or defending industrial clients, environmental lawyers must keep up with changing legislation to perform their jobs. Their salaries can vary, depending on where they live and their experience.
Salary Between $110,000 and $115,000
The average annual salary of an environmental lawyer was $112,000 as of 2014, according to the job site Indeed. Environmental lawyers, like other lawyers, must complete four-year bachelor's degrees in any major and three-year Juris Doctor degrees. They must also take and pass the American Bar Association exam to practice law in their respective states. Research, problem-solving, interpersonal, writing and speaking skills are other essential qualifications for this job.
Top Pay in D.C.
Salary disparities for environmental lawyers were the highest in the West region in 2014, according to Indeed, where they earned the least in Hawaii and the most in California at $70,000 and $120,000, respectively. Salaries for those in the Midwest ranged from a low of $70,000 in Nebraska to a high of $127,000 Illinois. In the South, environmental lawyers averaged $98,000 to $140,000 in Louisiana and Washington, D.C., respectively. They earned $136,000 in New York and $99,000 in Maine, which were the lowest and the highest salaries in the Northeast.
Earn Less Than Most Lawyers
While environmental lawyers averaged $112,000 in 2014, according to Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported average annual salaries of $131,990 for all U.S. lawyers as of May 2013. Lawyers who worked in legal services represented 62.2 percent of the BLS sample, earning an average of $138,140 annually. Lawyers in "legal services" may include highly paid law firm owners or partners, which elevated overall salaries for this sector. Environmental lawyers earned more than lawyers employed by local government agencies, who averaged $95,950. An example of a local government lawyer is one who works for a metropolitan police department, defending the actions of police officers.
Average Job Growth
The BLS doesn't forecast jobs for environmental lawyers. It estimates a 10 percent increase in employment, however, for lawyers from 2012 to 2022, which is statistically average compared to the 11 percent estimated growth rate for all occupations. Environmental issues are at the forefront of the news in the 21st century, especially how they impact health and climate. This may produce more job opportunities for environmental lawyers. Still, the number of law student graduates continues to exceed the availability of jobs.