When I started studying law, environmental law hadn’t yet become a hot topic. There didn’t seem to be much direction or scope for my passion on a professional level, but that didn’t really bother me as I pursued it in other ways.
With the help of mentors and faculty members, I put together my final year dissertation for my law degree on the Kyoto Protocol. Meanwhile, I was also volunteering with the Environmental Law Foundation and running a personal blog in which I read and reviewed environmental literature as it started to really gain traction in the public eye. While it was probably full of typos and ill-thought-out political opinions, it gave me a great creative outlet and a way to keep up to date on the subject.
About two years ago, after joining Russell-Cooke as a newly qualified associate in the litigation group, I returned to university to get a Masters in Environmental Law at UCL, the premier programme in the UK. My goal was to develop my expertise and to set up an environmental practice at Russell-Cooke which would encompass all aspects of environmental law, representing a range of clients including companies and charities and where public interest groups and crowd-funded initiatives can come to challenge Government policies and really make a difference.
While various economic crises and the Covid-19 pandemic have shifted the focus away from the environmental message somewhat, its importance has not diminished – on the contrary. Now that Brexit and its aftermath are slowly returning to the public agenda, it is important to remember that, regardless of our personal feelings on the political divorce, it does represent a real opportunity for the UK to blaze its own path in the world. We could elect a Government which sees the importance of getting it right when it comes to the environment. We could implement more stringent laws, not more lenient ones. We could actually enforce them instead of turning a blind eye. Although early drafts of the Environment Bill don’t look promising, we could still influence it to make it more robust.
There is a gold standard. There are firms and organisations who take real action to ensure companies and governments hold up their end of the bargain and deliver on their environmental obligations.
My aspiration is to use my personal passion and commitment to the environment in my daily professional life to help them to do so.
Tom Pritchard is an associate in the Litigation and Regulatory team. Read about the firm’s environmental practice here. The firm’s own environmental commitment is set out here.