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LLM in Environmental Law and Policy

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Environmental protection is one of the key challenges of our times, and a fascinating area of academic study. UCL’s LLM in environmental law and policy provides our students with the opportunity to gain a thorough understanding of, and to reflect deeply on, some of the most significant conceptual and practical issues associated with our environmental future. Legal study of environmental issues not only provides insight into how societies respond to environmental problems, but also how our lives are structured and designed to accommodate environmental issues.

We offer one of the widest offerings of LLM environmental law modules. Students who choose UCL’s LLM in Environmental Law and Policy are taught by world leading environmental law scholars from UCL Faculty of Laws, ranked 8th in the world by the Times Higher Education, alongside guests including policy makers, practising lawyers, and those working for NGOs. Our Environmental Law and Policy specialism is one of the top 10 LLM programmes for Environmental Law in the world (LLM Guide 2019).

Centred on the legal, regulatory, and justice challenges posed by environmental problems, our programme is global, local, and everything in between. Our LLM modules address underpinning ideas of environmental law (such as environmental principles, environmental justice), different jurisdictions (including EU and global and international law, as well as domestic law), and different substantive areas of environmental law (from climate change to land use). 

We pride ourselves on building a strong environmental law community at UCL, and LLM students are engaged in innovative research, environmental lawyering projects, and our many prominent environmental law Faculty events. Our students are part of the UCL Centre for Law and the Environment, a vibrant community of environmental law scholars that organises a number of environmental law events for students and visitors. After their LLM year, our students remain an important part of our community – our LLM alumni play important roles in our programmes and events and build a strong network of environmental lawyers around the world.

We prepare students to work at an advanced level in environmental law and policy. Our students go on to use the environmental law and policy expertise gained on this LLM in a variety of ways: in the public sector (working for their home governments in the fight against climate change; at DEFRA; joining regulators like Environment Agency etc); for NGOs and other third sector groups (such as the AIRE Centre); in private practice (at ClientEarth and a wealth of other firms and chambers). Students will also develop skills and knowledge to prepare them for further research beyond the LLM in academia (on PhD programmes and then as academics); and much more.

Professor Steven Vaughan, Professor of Law and Professional Ethics, at UCL Faculty of Laws shares some further information on the LLM in Environmental Law and Policy for prospective students:

What are the backgrounds or interests of students who usually select this specialism?

One of the nicest things about this specialism is the diversity of our student body, who bring with them their respective experiences and different forms of expertise. Our students come from all over the world and are a real mix of those just finishing their undergraduate law degrees, practising lawyers who want to learn about environmental law, environmental lawyers wanting to deepen their knowledge, plus those who have been working for government, in NGOs, and for businesses.

What do you think are the top three highlights of taking this specialism? 

Our aim each year is to make our students part of our environmental law community. This plays out in how we teach (getting to know our students as people and having them get to know us and our research), in what we do outside the classroom (a range of events each year put on by the UCL Centre for Law and the Environment), and our social events (which vary, depending on the year, from coffee mornings to book clubs to end of year afternoon teas). That sense of community is what keeps our students in contact with us long after they leave UCL.

What do students who have studied this specialism usually go on to do?

The short answer is: a whole range of things, all across the world. They are lawyers for their home governments working on international climate change law; they are policy makers for environmental agencies; they are lawyers and activists working in NGOs; they are employed at international organisations; they work in the City of London for some of the world’s largest law firms; they are barristers; they are grass roots voices supporting local communities. There is no one path from this specialism. Instead, there are multiple opportunities.

Which books, podcasts, blogs or newpapers do you recommend to students interested in this specialism?

Personally, I listen to the ‘Freakonomics’ podcast. The last one I heard was about US President-elect Biden and his choice of an economist who led on sustainable investment at Blackrock (the world’s largest investment management company) to work as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to combat climate change. And there’s also a great podcast by ‘The Green Alliance’. But there’s no need to listen to either of those podcasts. And that’s because environmental issues operate at various scales (local, regional, national, international) and are always in the press. Some are more obvious than others (the Guardian, for example, has a dedicated ‘Climate Emergency’ section) but the stories are always there.

What would you say to a student who is considering taking this specialism but hasn't made up their mind yet?

I’d say two things. The first is that environmental degradation (including but not limited to climate change) is one of mankind’s most pressing challenges. And it’s a challenge which requires different types of expertise to be deployed to improve where we are today. You’ll learn a lot about environmental law and policy on this LLM which will help you, if you want do that, to be part of responding to that challenge. The second is that we have a lot of fun. UCL Laws has the largest concentration of world-leading environmental law experts in the UK; and you get to be part of our community and to join us for thought provoking conversations day after day. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

Find out more about applying to one of our LLM programmes