Young lawyers starting out in environmental practice groups had an incredible opportunity to be involved in the new practice area of climate change law, almost from its inception.
And while it could be viewed as a disadvantage to try and build a career on uncharted ground, lawyers should take the chance to help shape the future direction of the practice area.
“It is really good for a lawyer to be at this end of the development (of a practice area) as it means you will be a part of that development,” Minter Ellison Special Counsel Climate Change, Cheryl Edwardes, said.
“Young lawyers come in with totally open minds as to where this is all going to go, and the impacts it will have for both firms and companies.
“But, to be a good climate change lawyer, you also need to understand corporate structures, property, finance. You need a good, all round knowledge of law, like specialists in any area, and that is also a great basis for young lawyers to develop their legal skills.”
Edwardes said climate change specialists were set to become a key component at any major firm.
A former West Australian Environment Minister, Edwardes is a passionate proponent for the premise behind proposed climate change legislation, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill (CPRS).
“Back in 1990 people were talking about the Greenhouse Effect, they didn’t talk about climate change,” she said.
“In government we were working towards a strong environment that would take on changes in the future.
“Now we are almost to the end of the first decade of 2000 and we are seeing legislation. While CPRS is a draft legislation and it looks like it will be deferred to August for the vote, those laws are coming.
“Whatever date they come and whatever targets they include, those laws are coming.”
Edwardes said climate change law was a natural progression from the sustainability legislation and regulation that had been in place for several years.
“This is a great opportunity for lawyers to provide new legal services.”