When Megabastard plc pumps raw sewage into the village pond, when Exploitthethirdworld SA decides that India’s legal system isn’t up to preventing it from pumping out dioxin as if it were Glade®, or when SS Leakytub goes aground in the puffin breeding colony and sheds its load of oil, someone needs to do something. You might think this is a criminal law issue, or perhaps a tort. You would be wrong. Criminal law and tort are practised by the legal equivalent of the great unwashed and serious matters of vast sums of money great moment require expertise and brilliance. You need an environmental lawyer. You must understand that Environmental lawyers deal with disasters or disasters in the making. At least, that is what they tell their friends – if defending in court they deal with minor incidents where a moment’s inadvertance to detailed formal procedures meant that a temporary hiccup took place. Criminal and Tort lawyers deal with tragedy – which is quite different and much less lucrative.
Advantages: genuinely wide ranging, often international in scope. Acting for defendants means megabucks. Acting for victims or the prosecution means being right-on and having access to a group of women who think you are gorgeous, they being unable to judge your looks properly because you don’t have a beard. Every case involves wading through enough paper to cause an – you guessed it; that’s irony for you hey? People make films about you.
Disadvantages: Your clients are ill, dead or dying, or you are trying to get such people to do any of those things in penury. You spend your life in dirt, dust clouds or pesticide ridden fields. You may turn into a mutant – from the inside. Every organisation with power (and many without) are muscling in on the action so the law changes day-to-day and there is a serious risk that, because it is black-letter based, your lay client may actually know more than you and be able to demonstrate it. Your plumber may well think that you believe him to be part of the problem and attack you with a monkey wrench.