A New In-House Frontier: Sustainability Counsel


With the United Nations’ Climate Week Summit in the news, now is an excellent time to spotlight a new frontier in environmental law. Many Houston-based oil & gas companies are at the forefront of this new hiring trend, which addresses the convergence of environmental concerns and corporate risk management. At Pye, we are seeing growing demand from our large corporate clients for lawyers with a background or interest in environmental law to fill newly-created Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Counsel as well as Policy Counsel openings in their in-house legal departments. Attorneys are asking, “Would this type of position be a good fit for me?”, and General Counsels are wondering, “Is it time to add someone to my team to fill this type of role?”

Companies are creating ESG Counsel positions in response to activist shareholders who are advocating for companies to prioritize and provide transparency to environmental concerns in their business. ESG Counsel positions require experience in environmental and/or corporate law. Our clients are looking for individuals with an in-depth understanding of sustainability and corporate responsibility. Excellent organizational and analytical skills and the ability to take complex data and communicate it effectively to a variety of audiences is critical.

Environmental Policy Counsel positions appeal to proactive individuals who are fascinated by, and perhaps want to advocate for, change related to sustainability and climate issues. These positions can resemble working in a “think tank” environment, where the lawyer reads and writes about climate change. A Policy Counsel position may also include monitoring of current and future legislative developments and developing company position statements to assist government relations leaders. The qualifications for Policy Counsel positions include strong analytical, problem solving, and oral and written communication skills. A background in environmental studies is also ideal for positions like this.

The new frontier in in-house environmental/sustainability positions gives attorneys the opportunity to link their legal practice with business planning and strategies. Environmental sustainability jobs within corporate legal departments also offer lawyers the chance to have a positive impact on public interests while typically rewarding the attorneys with higher levels of compensation and a more defined career track than they might find in governmental or public interest organizations.

We have recruited for a number of positions in this new and rapidly developing area of expertise, and we expect we will see more opportunities like these in 2020.

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