10 Environmental Law Interview Questions and Answers for Legal Counsel

flat art illustration of a Legal Counsel
If you're preparing for legal counsel interviews, see also our comprehensive interview questions and answers for the following legal counsel specializations:

1. Can you explain the basics of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act?

The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act are two crucial pieces of legislation that regulate air and water pollution in the United States.

  1. Clean Air Act: The Clean Air Act was signed into law in 1970 and aims to protect human health and the environment from air pollution. It sets limits on the levels of major air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, that can be emitted from industrial facilities, power plants, and vehicles. As a Legal Counsel, I would ensure compliance with these regulations, and in case of violations, would help the company to take corrective measures. According to the Clean Air Act, since 1970, there have been:
    • 73% reduction in lead levels
    • 84% reduction in carbon monoxide levels
    • 33% reduction in nitrogen oxide levels
    • 65% reduction in sulfur dioxide levels
  2. Clean Water Act: The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 with the purpose of establishing basic water quality standards and making all U.S. waters safe for fishing and swimming. The Act provides protection against contamination of surface waters, like rivers and lakes, and groundwater. The Act requires companies to obtain permits before discharging pollutants into a body of water. As Legal Counsel, I would ensure that the company abides by these regulations, and if necessary, help them in obtaining the required permits. Thanks to the Clean Water Act, the health of many rivers and lakes have improved; for instance:
    • Chesapeake Bay's Wetlands have tripled helping to prevent water pollution and provide habitat for wildlife since 2017.
    • The number of "dead zones" or low-oxygen areas in the Gulf of Mexico have significantly decreased since 2000.
    • The Potomac River in Washington D.C. is thriving with wildlife such as bald eagles and river otters, and has seen a 70% drop in nitrogen pollution between 1985 and 2016.

2. What are some current environmental legal issues that you think are important?

One current environmental legal issue that I believe is especially important is the EPA's Clean Power Plan. This plan aims to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, which are a major contributor to climate change. According to the EPA, the Clean Power Plan could reduce carbon pollution by as much as 870 million tons by 2030, the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road.

Another key issue is the protection of endangered species. The Endangered Species Act, which is designed to protect wildlife that is at risk of extinction, is currently facing challenges from businesses seeking to exploit natural resources in protected habitats. It's important to balance economic interests with conservation efforts to ensure the preservation of these species for future generations.

Additionally, the impact of microplastics on the environment has become a growing concern. These small plastic particles are found in sources of water used for drinking and agriculture, and can have harmful effects on marine life and the overall ecosystem. New research has shown that microplastics have even been found in human organs, further emphasizing the importance of addressing this issue.

  1. The Clean Power Plan
  2. Endangered species protection
  3. Impact of microplastics on the environment

3. How do you stay up to date with changes in environmental law and regulations?

As a Legal Counsel specializing in Environmental Law, staying updated with the latest changes in legislation and regulations is crucial to my job. One of the most effective ways I stay informed is by attending industry conferences, seminars, and workshops. For example, last year I attended the National Association of Environmental Law Conference where I learned about new developments in climate change laws and policies, along with innovative solutions to combat environmental issues.

  1. I also subscribe to various environmental law publications and newsletters, such as The Environmental Law Reporter and Greenwire, to stay current with new regulations and issues. By doing so, I am able to remain informed about new environmental laws and policies at the federal and state levels.
  2. Additionally, I regularly network with other legal professionals in the environmental law field to exchange knowledge and tips regarding current events and best practices. This networking has resulted in great relationships that have not only helped me remain informed but also helped me make better decisions when recommending a legal course of action.
  3. Lastly, I continuously update my knowledge of environmental law by conducting research using various resources such as academic articles and legal precedents. This allows me to broaden my knowledge base and gain new insights on emerging legal issues.

Collectively, these strategies have enabled me to keep abreast of new and evolving trends in environmental law and regulations. I am always eager to continuously develop my knowledge and skills to provide the best legal service to my clients.

4. Can you describe your experience with environmental impact assessments (EIAs)?

During my previous role as a Legal Counsel for a renewable energy company, I had significant experience with environmental impact assessments (EIAs). One specific project I worked on required a thorough EIA in order to receive government permits and approvals.

  1. First, I conducted a comprehensive review of the project and identified all potential environmental impacts.
  2. Next, I worked with a team of environmental experts to thoroughly assess each impact and evaluate potential mitigation measures.
  3. Using this information, I drafted a detailed EIA report that was submitted to the relevant government agencies.
  4. The report was accepted without any major revisions, and the project was ultimately approved.

The EIA process was crucial to the success of the project, as it ensured that all potential environmental impacts were identified and mitigated. Through my experience with this project and others, I have become skilled at balancing environmental considerations with the needs of the business.

5. How do you reconcile competing interests between economic development and environmental sustainability?

As a Legal Counsel, I have had to navigate complex situations where economic development goals have clashed with environmental sustainability concerns. In such cases, it is important to strike a balance between the two and find a solution that considers both interests.

  1. Firstly, I prioritize understanding the specific context and identifying the key stakeholders involved. This includes government bodies, community groups, businesses, and environmental advocates. By getting a holistic view of the situation, it becomes easier to identify where common ground can be found.

  2. I then assess the potential impact of the proposed development on the environment and the surrounding community. This includes conducting detailed research, analyzing data, and soliciting feedback from various experts in the field. I ensure that all legal and regulatory requirements are met and suggest ways to mitigate any environmental risks.

  3. The next step is to engage in open communication with all parties involved. This means acknowledging the concerns of both economic and environmental stakeholders and proposing solutions that address all parties' interests.

  4. Where adversarial relationships have already been established, I try to bring all parties to an agreement in a non-confrontational manner. Involving a neutral third party mediator may be a viable solution to the situation, as it can help identify potential win-win outcomes for both parties.

  5. As a result of my efforts in the past, I was able to work with a large manufacturing company to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20% annually over a three-year period, while also enabling the company to expand its operations and increase its profit margins. Through extensive permit negotiations, stakeholder engagement sessions, and technical solutions implementation, we were able to balance the interests of both the company and the local community.

Ultimately, when it comes to reconciling competing interests between economic development and environmental sustainability, a collaborative and holistic approach that is grounded in research, data, and effective communication can lead to successful outcomes that benefit both parties involved.

6. What is your experience with negotiating environmental settlements and agreements?

As a Legal Counsel specializing in Environmental Law, I have extensive experience in negotiating settlements and agreements in a variety of environmentally-sensitive cases. One such example is when I represented a major construction company that was facing numerous allegations of violating environmental regulations in a high-profile case.

  1. First and foremost, I conducted a thorough investigation into the alleged environmental violations to gather all the necessary facts and evidence.
  2. Then, I reached out to the regulatory authorities to initiate settlement negotiations.
  3. Through persistent and well-reasoned arguments, I was able to successfully negotiate a settlement that resulted in a 40% reduction in the initial proposed fines.
  4. Furthermore, I was able to negotiate an agreement that not only satisfied the concerns of the regulatory authorities but also protected the company's interests.

Overall, my experience in negotiating environmental settlements and agreements has allowed me to effectively represent my clients' interests while ensuring environmental compliance.

7. What experience do you have with representing clients in litigation related to environmental issues?

During my time with XYZ Law Firm, I represented a major oil and gas company in a complex environmental litigation case. The company was facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit from several communities that claimed their groundwater had been contaminated by the company's operations.

  1. Firstly, I researched extensively on the State regulations on environmental liability and dug deep into the possible causes of the contamination. I found evidence that disproved some of the communities' claims while identifying other potential contributing factors that could have also contributed to the pollution.
  2. Secondly, I worked with industry experts and analysts to build a strong case for the client. We analyzed historical data and conducted various tests to show that the pollution could have come from a variety of other sources, including historical contamination from unrelated third-party entities, as well as natural contamination such as from the nearby factories and municipal waste sites listed on Environment Protection Agency's (EPA) database.
  3. Thirdly, during the jury trial, I presented a persuasive case to the judge and the members of the jury. With the help of the evidence we collected and the experts' testimonies, I argued convincingly that our client was not solely responsible for the pollution, and that it was unfair to hold them liable for the damages that were caused.
  4. Finally, after a long legal battle, we emerged victorious when the court ruled in our favor, and the client was only required to pay a fraction of the initial settlement the plaintiffs were seeking. This outcome was a huge victory for not only the client, but also for the other industries that were facing similar lawsuits.

This experience taught me the importance of attention to detail, persistence, and collaboration with experts in achieving success in environmental litigation cases. I believe these skills will be valuable to your organization, and I am excited to bring them to the table.

8. Can you describe your approach to advising clients on environmental compliance and risk management?

My approach to advising clients on environmental compliance and risk management is based on three key principles:

  1. Educate: I believe that educating clients on environmental regulations and best practices is crucial. To achieve this, I conduct training sessions, workshops, and send out regular updates on policy changes and emerging environmental risks that could impact their operations.
  2. Evaluate: Once clients have a sound understanding of the regulations, I develop customized compliance strategies for their specific needs. I conduct a thorough review of their operations, identify potential risks, and recommend appropriate solutions to mitigate those risks. For example, I conducted an audit of a manufacturing company's waste disposal practices and identified several areas of non-compliance. By working with the client, we developed a new waste reduction and disposal strategy that not only improved compliance but also resulted in cost savings of over $50,000 per year.
  3. Enforce: Finally, I continuously monitor and enforce compliance to ensure that clients remain in good standing with all applicable environmental regulations. For instance, I developed a compliance assurance program for a large oil and gas company that resulted in an overall reduction in environmental incidents by 50% within the first year of implementation.

Overall, my approach is to work collaboratively with clients to provide tailored solutions that are both effective and efficient in managing environmental compliance and risks.

9. How would you handle a situation where a client was in violation of an environmental regulation?

As Legal Counsel, I would start by reviewing the specific regulation that the client is in violation of to gain a full understanding of the situation at hand. I would then investigate the extent of the violation and assess the potential impact and consequences.

  1. First, I would discuss the situation with the client and obtain their full cooperation.
  2. Next, I would recommend an action plan to rectify the violation and ensure full compliance with the applicable regulation. The recommended plan would be based on a thorough analysis of the problem, and would include cost and time estimates, potential risks, and required resources.
  3. In order to provide added value to the client, I would also propose measures to avoid similar violations in the future. This would involve drafting policies or procedures for the client to implement, and provide training to employees to raise awareness of environmental regulations and best practices.
  4. After the recommended action plan has been agreed upon, I would work closely with the client to implement the plan and take proactive steps to prevent any additional violations. This could include developing a monitoring program to ensure ongoing compliance and timely alerts to the client of any changes in relevant regulations.
  5. Throughout this process, I would maintain open communication with the relevant regulatory agency, providing ongoing updates and demonstrating the client's commitment to compliance.
  6. Finally, I would document the steps taken to remedy the situation, and ensure that the client has appropriate records to demonstrate compliance. This documentation would be useful in the event of any future regulatory or legal issues.

By taking these steps, I would be able to help the client avoid costly fines and penalties, while also preventing damage to the environment. Additionally, by proactively addressing compliance issues, I would be furthering the client's reputation as a responsible and ethical company in the eyes of regulators and the public.

10. How do you balance the need for corporate profitability with the need for environmental sustainability?

Corporate profitability and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive concepts. In fact, studies have shown that companies that prioritize sustainability often see a long-term positive impact on profitability.

As Legal Counsel, I understand the importance of balancing the two needs. One approach I have taken is to implement environmentally sustainable practices that also reduce costs, creating a mutually beneficial outcome. For example, in my previous position, I was responsible for negotiating and drafting contracts for a manufacturing company. One of the clauses I included was a requirement for suppliers to use sustainable materials and production methods. Not only did this support the company's sustainability goals, but it also led to cost savings as the materials were more durable and required less maintenance.

Furthermore, I believe in the importance of communicating the business case for sustainability to stakeholders. By demonstrating the potential long-term financial benefits, it can become easier to justify short-term investments in sustainable practices. In my experience, this approach has resulted in higher engagement and commitment from senior management to prioritize sustainability.

  1. According to a study by CDP, companies with higher environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings have a lower cost of capital and higher valuations.
  2. Research from Harvard Business School found that companies that prioritize sustainability outperform their peers over the long-term, with higher profitability and stock market performance.
  3. A report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development found that improving sustainability performance can lead to significant cost savings in areas such as energy and waste management.

Overall, I believe that integrating environmental sustainability into corporate profitability is not only possible, but also essential for long-term success.


In conclusion, preparing for an Environmental Law interview can be a daunting task, but with these 10 interview questions and answers, you should be able to nail it. As a Legal Counsel, writing a great cover letter is essential to landing your dream job. Check out our advice and guidance for writing the perfect cover letter here. Additionally, it's important to prepare an impressive legal CV to showcase your skills and experiences. Follow our guide here to learn how to put together a CV that stands out. Finally, if you're looking for a new job, search through our remote Legal job board to find the perfect opportunity for you.

Looking for a remote tech job? Search our job board for 30,000+ remote jobs
Search Remote Jobs
Built by Lior Neu-ner. I'd love to hear your feedback — Get in touch via DM or lior@remoterocketship.com