Law Students for Climate Accountability (LSCA), a non-profit coalition of law students advocating for climate justice, Thursday released a report criticizing top US law schools with a disproportionate amount of graduates entering corporate fossil fuel legal positions. LSCA argued that fossil fuel lawyers often wreak havoc on the environment by lobbying against environmental regulations, drafting and enforcing harmful fossil fuel production contracts and assisting climate polluters in avoiding accountability.
The report identified the T-20 law schools with the highest fossil fuel lawyer output: the University of Texas Law School, the University of Virginia School of Law, Yale Law School, Harvard Law School and Vanderbilt University Law School. LSCA called for these schools to take accountability for their role in climate injustice, stating, “[t]hese traditionally highly-ranked schools tend to be the wealthiest, and their graduates are typically afforded the most opportunities. These schools have the least excuse for churning out lawyers whose legal educations are used to oppose climate justice.”
The report detailed that lawyers are involved in every step of fossil fuel production, including extraction, transportation and combustion. The report urged fossil fuel lawyers to take accountability for their role in the climate crisis, saying that “[r]epresentation and other legal work on behalf of fossil fuel companies takes place in the realm of choice, not obligation.” According to LSCA, factors such as law school debt and high fossil fuel salaries were cited as some of the top reasons why lawyers choose to take on these positions.
The report recommended that law schools take action to encourage their graduates to enter social justice careers by subsidizing graduates working in public service careers, providing greater clinical experiences that support social justice work and preventing fossil fuel lawyers from teaching law school courses on environmental subjects.