Wanted: Chemical Engineer Environmental Attorneys | AIChE

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Wanted: Chemical Engineer Environmental Attorneys

Career Catalyst

Chemical engineers who are interested in an invigorating and meaningful career path can fill critical gaps in the practice of environmental law.

There is a definite gap in environmental work that is uniquely filled by combining chemical engineering and law. The combination of chemical engineering and environmental law is critically useful, and the high demand for chemical engineer (ChE) environmental attorneys reflects this fact.

Combining the chemistry and chemical process expertise of chemical engineering with a rigorous understanding of our legal system as an attorney creates a formidable combination of skills in an environmental attorney. For example, ChEs — without benefitting from the law school curriculum including constitutional, administrative, and environmental law, and property, torts, and civil procedure — may feel compelled to rely on literal applications of specific technical requirements, even where the requirements may not anticipate their process’s unique scenario, rendering application of the regulation ambiguous. In such cases, ChEs may not appreciate agency discretion and the nuance with which environmental regulation is implemented, which may result in an unnecessary enforcement action. Similarly, environmental attorneys who are not ChEs may not have any understanding of chemistry and chemical engineering fundamentals and processes, and thus may not be aware when a regulation is ambiguous when applied to their client’s unique scenario. It’s that understanding that allows successful ChE environmental attorneys to guide clients toward creative solutions for environmental matters involving chemistry and chemical process issues.

This article discusses how the chemical engineering skillset and education fit into environmental law and gives advice for ChEs considering such a career. This career path is not only challenging and in-demand — it can also be quite fun...

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