Environmental Law FAQ

Wooded Path

Do I Need an Environmental Lawyer?

If you are an individual or business that is faced with issues related to environmental laws, contracts related to environmental work, or health and safety matters you likely will want the advise and representation of an environmental lawyer.

What does an Environmental Lawyer do?

Environmental lawyers focus on legal matters related to the air, land, water and to a certain extent to health and safety issues related to hazardous materials. These issues may develop from a variety of activities such as:

  • manufacturing of a product
  • disposal of waste whether out a smoke stake, discharged into the water or landfill
  • transportation of a solid, liquid or gas substance
  • exposing workers or the public to one or more hazardous substances
  • construction that may disturb underground storage tanks
  • construction that may disturb asbestos or lead based paint
  • clean up of a hazardous material spill or release
  • governmental enforcement of one or more environmental regulations at the local, state or federal level

How do I Know if I need an Environmental Lawyer?

First, if you are asking this question then you should discuss the facts, that lead you to ask this question, with an environmental lawyer. You should have a trusted attorney at your disposal who you feel comfortable with and someone you can reach easily and quickly to assist you on legal issues.

Clearly any of the above activities should trigger a consultation with an environmental lawyer.

How Much Does an Environmental Lawyer Cost?

Lawyers in general charge for their services in different ways. Some charge a fixed fee for services that take a known amount of time i.e. wills or bankruptcy. Some charge a contingent or percentage of the money earned i.e. like auto accidents or medical malpractice claims. Finally, some charge on an hourly basis for those matters that will require an unknown amount of time. It is always important to remember that you can shop for a lawyer that fits your budget however, remember the old saying "you get what you pay for."

Individuals are always concerned with attorney costs and for good reason. However, an attorney who is asked to come in and handle a situation that has occurred because someone has been operating on the edge or under the table will likely be expensive. The individual who seeks legal advice early in a situation and who is proactive in addressing issues before they unravel will have a much greater chance of avoiding a catastrophic environmental event. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A systematic approach to evaluating and addressing environmental issues allows a smooth transition into compliance and provides a time frame to budge expediters to maximize cash flow. A planned approach is always better than an emergency approach with regulatory personal supervising.

What Should I Expect When Working With an Environmental Lawyer?

This is like asking what should I expect when I go to a restaurant. The food at some may be hard to swallow because its spicy, tough, or just cold. The staff may or may not be attentive to your needs. Finally the place may not be open or accessible very often or if it is it's so busy you are just a number in the crowd. Law firms and lawyers can be a lot like restaurants.

First, you should have a relationship with a lawyer and possibly an environmental lawyer. He should be someone you can call up a couple of times a year and invite out to lunch without getting billed for it. He should know you and have visited your plant and know what it is you do there. He is someone who will have a broad base of knowledge including environmental law, contracts, negotiating skills, court room experience, science and or engineering knowledge or know where to find people with the necessary expertise. He is someone you can call and get a quick answer as to whether something is a minor or major issue and someone who can propose solution as well as identify problems. Litigation or scrutiny from regulatory personal is never productive or profitable. You want a lawyer who understands that the sooner you are out from under the "microscope" the sooner things can get back to normal. Staying in a legal battle may sound good or be morally fulfilling but it can also become very expensive. If you want to spent a lot of money that's your business if you want to spend less that's my business.