Making Climate Lawyers
Climate Change in American Law Schools, 1985-2020
Sales Date: February 23, 2024
256 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: February 2024
- Published: February 2024
Why did it take so long for American law schools to start teaching about climate change? Although most environmental law professors were aware of climate change by 1990, it took nearly fifteen years for them to incorporate the topic into their curriculum. In her innovative new work, Kimberly K. Smith explores how American environmental law professors have addressed climate change, identifying the barriers they faced, how they overcame them, and how they created “climate law” as a domain of legal specialization.
Making Climate Lawyers explores the history of why American law schools were resistant to teaching about climate change and how that changed over the course of a forty-year period, resulting in law schools across the country incorporating climate change into their curricula, with many even establishing centers on the environment. Smith challenges dominant explanations of why the United States was slow to develop climate policy: it wasn’t just political opposition or short-sightedness. Creating climate legal professionals required changing the fundamentals of legal education.
Based on dozens of interviews with faculty and students, Making Climate Lawyers fills a gap in the literature on the intellectual history of climate change, most of which focuses on the history of climate science. Smith focuses instead on how the climate problem fits (or doesn’t fit) into the structure of American law. She uses this story as a lens through which to understand both the transformation of legal education since the 1980s and the nature of climate change as a policy problem.
“Kimberly Smith’s Making Climate Lawyers offers a unique perspective of the role American legal education played in shaping climate policy. The ongoing transformation in law schools in studying climate change has generated the legal expertise necessary to structure an effective climate policy. This is a fascinating and untold study of the outsize role US lawyers possess in framing, shaping, and structuring public policy—including climate policy, a role American law schools are central in developing.”—Michael S. Ariens, author of The Lawyer’s Conscience: A History of American Lawyer Ethics
“Making Climate Lawyers shows how the climate change crisis and potential solutions come from the roots of the American political and governance establishment—law schools. Kimberly Smith explains with research and insights how lawyers make policy in the United States and how lawyers are shaped by law school. The advances in legal education that Smith shares and the bold further recommendations she offers would help transform the law to meet the challenges of climate change.”—Noah Hall, author of Water Law: Concepts and Insights
“If the warning signs of harmful climate change were flashing as early as the 1980s, why did it take so long for law schools to notice, and even longer to offer courses in the legal tools for addressing climate change? This necessary book shows that law schools and law professors struggled mightily to understand and translate a novel environmental problem into useful training for future lawyers. Through careful research, Smith provides a probing, evenhanded primer on why good change took so long to come to law schools. Smith pushes law schools to take her account seriously: the need for a dynamic and innovative field of climate law, she suggests, can be an impetus for much-needed reform in law schools more generally. This book is essential reading for anyone wondering how law schools can do more, and do better, to address the most far-reaching environmental challenge of our era.”—Todd A. Wildermuth, coauthor of Wildlife Law, Second Edition
1. Making Environmental Lawyers
2. The Birth of Climate Law
3. The Changing Landscape
4. The Great Transformation, 2000–2010
5. Making Climate Lawyers, 2011–2020
AppendixA: List of People Interviewed
Appendix B: Law School of Environment-Focused Centers