Climate group turns focus to law schools as energy industry ‘pipelines’

LAW

(Reuters) – A U.S. law student group critical of law firms that represent fossil fuel clients has a new target: law schools that send a high proportion of graduates into the service of the fossil fuel industry.

Law Students for Climate Accountability on Thursday released a report highlighting law schools it says have the most graduates working for energy industry clients at law firms. It called on schools to steer fewer students into high-paid law and lobbying jobs serving fossil fuel companies, and instead boost financial aid and assistance for students pursuing alternative careers.

“The careers their graduates go on to perform are the most influential effect law schools have on the climate crisis,” the report said. It said the top 20 law schools ranked by U.S. News & World Report produce nearly half of fossil fuel lawyers in the United States.

The University of Texas School of Law; the University of Virginia School of Law; and Yale Law School had the highest proportion of alumni working on fossil fuel matters, according to the report. A Texas spokesman declined to comment on the report, while representatives of Virginia and Yale did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Top-ranked law schools are structured as “pipelines” into large corporate law firms, the report said, adding that high law school debt also drives students into large firms, where starting pay hovers around $200,000.

Students from Yale and Harvard University formed Law Students for Climate Accountability in 2020, urging law students to boycott jobs at law firms that represent fossil fuel clients. It produces an annual scorecard detailing the law firms it says have done the most work for fossil fuel clients.

Focusing on law schools is a new tactic for the group, though co-founder Tim Hirschel-Burns said it plans to keep up pressure on law firms.

“We realize that law firms operate in a broader ecosystem, and law schools play a significant role in creating pressures that push students towards careers at fossil fuel-friendly law firms,” he said.

Read more:

Top law firms taking on more fossil fuel work as planet warms – report

‘You are all climate lawyers now,’ John Kerry tells ABA

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