At a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 22, the Environmental Law Institute honored LSU Law Professor Nick Bryner with an Environmental Futures Award, which the nonprofit presents to “the next generation of leaders striving to address the environmental challenges of tomorrow.”
Bryner spent a year working for the Environmental Law Institute after graduating from George Washington University Law School in 2012, but his interest in environmental issues that affect public health was sparked long before then.
“I grew up with asthma in Utah, a state with significant air pollution problems, and my father was a professor who taught, among other things, classes on environmental policy,” he explains.
As a law student, Bryner was motivated to make environmental law the focus of his career after spending a summer working for a judge in Brasilia, Brazil, researching environmental law decisions.
During his time at the Environmental Law Institute, Bryner further saw how “environmental challenges are in many ways interconnected—local and global,” while working on a variety of grant-funded projects, including a review of state authority to create marine protected areas; an analysis of proposed reforms to Liberia’s forest code and community benefit sharing programs; and a study of post-disaster returning migration policy in Japan and the United States.
Bryner came to LSU Law last year after teaching environmental law and policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as his alma mater, George Washington University Law School.
“In Louisiana, one of the most significant issues is environmental justice: Ensuring that environmental law protects everyone equally, regardless of race, class or geography,” he says. “In teaching and writing, I see it as an important part of my work to discuss how environmental how works and how it can be better used to serve that ideal.”
Calling environmental law “the best area of law you can find,” Bryner encourages his students to consider the wide range of practice opportunities the field offers.
“You can have a great career in public interest environmental law, and you can also find rewarding opportunities in private practice or working for federal, state and local governments,” he says. “I encourage students to think broadly about the role they can play as lawyers in all these settings, beyond what might immediately come to mind. For example, firms that negotiate real estate transactions or corporate acquisitions need good lawyers to address any environmental liability from pollution or other activities.”
Opportunities in environmental law are especially abundant in Louisiana, Bryner notes.
“The energy industry is so significant in Louisiana, and environmental law is, I think, the most significant way in which the industry is regulated, both at the state and federal level,” he says.
Beyond career opportunities, Bryner says environmental law is always interesting because it’s in continuous development, and it’s a practice area that “touches nearly everything you do—from the car you drive and the electricity that cools your house to the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat.”