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Natural Resources Jobs for Legal Professionals: How To Find Opportunities

published March 21, 2005

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The legal field offers a wide range of opportunities for those interested in natural resources law. Natural resources law encompasses a variety of areas such as environmental protection, land use, and energy resources. For legal professionals, natural resources law offers a chance to work in a wide range of both public and private sector settings.

Legal staff opportunities specific to natural resources law are available in a variety of industries. Government agencies, private corporations, and non-profit organizations are all potential employers. Natural resources lawyers may work in offices, laboratories, and courtrooms to research, advise, and advocate for their clients.

Lawyers working in natural resources law may be involved in watershed protection, endangered species conservation, land use regulation, and energy law. Such issues require lawyers who have a sound understanding of science, technology, and the law.

Professionals interested in natural resources law must typically have at least a bachelor's degree in a related field like environmental science, biology, chemistry, or geology. In addition, legal professionals must also have a law degree, either a Juris Doctor (JD) or a Master of Laws (LLM) degree.

Those working in natural resources law may also be part of a team of lawyers, scientists, and engineers. Such teams allow professionals to collaborate to address legal issues related to natural resources. In addition, lawyers in this field may be involved in litigation, work on environmental compliance, or give legal advice on natural resources matters.

Overall, the field of natural resources law provides a wide variety of opportunities over a broad range of industries. Natural resources lawyers must demonstrate an understanding of scientific principles, as well as legal knowledge, to be successful. Legal staff opportunities in this field are available for those interested in pursuing a career in natural resources law.

Natural Resources and Legal Staff Opportunities

The legal industry offers a vast array of opportunities for legal staff, including many in the field of natural resources. This article highlights some of the areas within natural resources that are suitable for legal staff employment.

Oil and Gas Law

The oil and gas industry is often a great target for legal staff to gain experience in. There are a range of legal positions available in this sector, such as transactional attorneys, regulatory lawyers, and environmental counselors. Transactional attorneys are tasked with negotiating, drafting, and reviewing contracts or leases pertaining to exploration, production, or drilling rights. Regulatory lawyers help companies comply with state and federal regulations related to the oil and gas industry, while environmental counselors ensure operations adhere to environmental laws and regulations.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is an important sector that has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Many of these energy sources rely heavily on legal advice to ensure compliance with laws and regulations. Legal staff can get involved in renewable energy legal positions by helping to negotiate contracts related to power-purchase agreements, project finance agreements, and tax credit matters.


Mining is a vital industry around the world and legal staff can find many opportunities in this field. There are numerous government regulations that need to be adhered to when it comes to mining, so legal staff are essential to ensure compliance. Additionally, they can assist in negotiating contracts related to resource extraction, mineral rights, and royalties.


The forestry industry is another opportunity for legal staff to gain experience and knowledge. Forestry is a heavily regulated industry and legal staff are integral in ensuring operations are compliant with all applicable laws and regulations. They can also help to negotiate contracts related to logging, timber sales, mineral rights, and public land use.

<<"The cases are quite complex," said Carri L. Svec, certified paralegal at Holland & Hart, LLP, a large oil and gas firm in Wyoming. Ms. Svec compared the field's complexities to those in medical malpractice litigation. "In both cases, there's such detail you need to know to prove your case on either side," she said. A typical day may be filled with managing discovery documents, executing business agreements, and overseeing compliance matters. "We do lots of drafting of pleadings and court documents," Ms. Svec detailed. "I review documents for privilege and relevance. I also answer discovery requests."

Coming to oil and gas litigation from a plaintiffs' firm that occasionally represented oil and gas litigants, Ms. Svec was somewhat familiar with the field. "I knew the lingo, the parts of an oil field and rig," Ms. Svec stated. "I knew how things worked and who was responsible for what." That knowledge is indispensable in this complex field. "You have to know the terminology and what you're looking for," said Ms. Svec. "It's a learning experience," agreed Tina Rios, former paralegal and currently administrative assistant at LaRoche Petroleum Consultants, a consulting firm to oil and gas companies. "In the beginning, it was foreign to me. Keeping up the pace and being fresh can be challenging." Ms. Svec swears by researching new issues and continually developing paralegal skills. "You can't be afraid to ask questions. If I have a question, I need to go to an attorney and cover my bases."

"The most difficulty we find in hiring is people's work ethic," said Ms. Svec. Paralegals are often expected to bill minimum yearly hours at oil and gas law firms and must be able to work with little supervision. "Work ethic is important because you have to trust and be responsible for your own job. Everyone relies on others to do their [own] jobs and attorneys don't watch over the paralegals' shoulders."

Oil and gas law also presents plenty of opportunities for client interaction. "People skills are very important," explained Ms. Rios, whose company provides clients with reports on the function and future of oil wells. Most clients in this field are large companies; as such, a paralegal may interact with several employees on any case. "My contact is usually other in-house paralegals and attorneys," said Ms Svec. "You may work with people on the same case for years and not see them, but will still develop a relationship." Paralegals emphasize the importance of professionalism and diligence when dealing with clients. "The client is your boss too," Ms. Svec said. "You want to make a good impression."

Contact isn't always limited to phone and email. "I've been traveling a lot," said Ms. Svec, who's visited Houston and Salt Lake City, plus several locations in Alabama and New Mexico. "I attend virtually all meetings with clients…I go wherever clients' offices are to review documents." Although the South and Southwest offer the majority of job opportunities in natural resources law, the field is certainly not limited to those locations; for example, Alaska also boasts some great oil and gas firms. In fact, "There is a lot of oil and gas work outside of the United States," said Ms. Svec. "Where we are…there are lots of issues and hot topics that the whole industry is interested in."

For those looking to break into the field, a legal background or education is undoubtedly necessary, though past experience on the technical side (like working in engineering or science) may also do the trick. "The best advice is to do some research and find out about the company you're working for and who their clients are," Ms. Rios recommended. The competitive nature of this legal area calls for top-notch paralegals, insiders say. "There's a lot of firms out there vying for the same work," Ms. Svec reflected. "There's a lot of work, but also lots of competition."

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published March 21, 2005

( 7 votes, average: 4.4 out of 5)
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