Academic journal article Energy Law Journal

Energy Law Education in the U.S.: An Overview and Recommendations

Academic journal article Energy Law Journal

Energy Law Education in the U.S.: An Overview and Recommendations

Article excerpt


The Energy Bar Association's Ad Hoc Committee on Energy Law Education is honored to present this Report on energy law education in the United States, addressing how energy law is currently taught and how it can be strengthened to meet the needs of a growing and changing industry. The Committee is composed of academics, recent students, and seasoned practitioners from government and private industries. (A list of participants is included at the end of this Report.)

The Committee developed the Report for the EBA; this long-term project was conceived by then-Vice President of the Association, Richard Meyer, with the approval of then-President, Adrienne Clair. However, the Committee expects it to be useful to a wider audience, including law students, prospective law students, educators, educational advisors, prospective employers, and other interested bar associations. The Report discusses the variety of career options within the field of energy law and ideas to better connect energy law education to practice. It also discusses the differences among law school energy programs and approaches in order to inform law students, pre-law students, and career counselors about the field and the variety of study options available, which the Committee hopes will assist aspiring la wyers in making choices appropriate for their interests and career goals. The Committee has sought to identify and share best practices and develop new ideas in order to assist law schools in expanding and enhancing the options available to students. The Committee has also addressed recommendations to the Energy Bar Association, potential employers, and other interested parties on measures they can take to further energy law education.

Through our months of meetings and information gathering, the Committee has come to appreciate the complexity of teaching this subject. "Energy" includes a number of discrete sectors, each of which has its own set of laws and policy concerns but which also have various interdependencies and commonalities. Further, energy lawyers apply a diverse set of skills and draw on multiple areas of the law in their everyday work, including cross-overs into many other legal and non-legal disciplines. Simply untangling this web of relationships creates an educational challenge and makes it difficult to structure or recommend "tracks" of study that could serve as a common guide. There are many career options in energy law and many paths by which to secure the knowledge needed.

A benefit of this complexity is that energy law is suited to a wide variety of students with diverse undergraduate majors. The Report includes an appendix that maps the types of skill sets students may have developed as undergraduates, including in the hard sciences, social sciences, business, and liberal arts, to areas of energy law practice.

As a result of the complexity of the subject and the differing goals of various schools, energy law curriculums vary greatly in depth, breadth, and focus. For example, a number of law schools focus on aspects of energy production that are important to the economies of their region, such as oil & gas, coal, or wind. Others have a stronger bent toward environmental law and policy issues. Depending on the number of students interested in energy law, a law school may offer anywhere from one to a dozen or more courses for which energy is the predominant focus. The diversity in programs has value because it provides students who are potentially interested in energy law, and are deciding among schools, with a wide variety of options. However, it also means that any attempt to develop a model curriculum, or specify in the narrative a specific set of courses, would necessarily reflect the lowest common denominator and thus not provide useful guidance. Therefore, the Committee concluded that the Report could not identify a single "best" curriculum or recommend a syllabus for any particular course, but rather should be a broad narrative that reflects the variety of ways in which energy law may be taught, and share ideas that can be adapted to different circumstances. …

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