On November 1, 2018, experienced attorneys engrossed students with career advice at a panel on Careers in Environmental & Natural Resources Law. Texas A&M Law proudly hosted Susan Maxwell of Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta, Caroline Sweeney with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”), Peter Wahl of Jackson Walker; and Steve McMillen with Texas Instruments (“TI”).
Panelists emphasized that much of the work in environmental law is intersectional. Often times, transactional work and litigation intersects with other areas of law—especially water law. Depending on where you work, your job may not always consist of just “lawyering,” but may also involve consideration of many areas of business. For example, McMillen works on several different problem-solving teams in his role as in-house counsel at TI. Sweeney is also involved with several different teams at TCEQ, including the team deciding how a portion of the damages awarded in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation will be distributed.
Panelists agreed that the landscape of environmental law jobs has evolved and highlighted that some of the biggest opportunities in Texas involve working in the area of water law. This is not only because of water’s dynamic nature—i.e. growing water scarcity in Texas combined with growing water needs of Texans—but also because of the state’s application of the rule of capture to groundwater resources.
One notable piece of advice offered to students was to get their feet wet in environmental litigation by starting a career at the TCEQ. Often times, workplaces like TCEQ require practitioners to wear many different hats, which exposes young attorneys to many different areas and issues of environmental, water, natural resources law, and more.