Selecting an Environmental Lawyer

Kevin Murphy

Environmental law matters frequently involve an overlap and interplay between legal, scientific, and business concerns. Translating science into policy and policy into law and the resulting enforcement or interpretation of the law by government agencies and the courts can leave people and businesses frustrated, confused and confounded by the law and its regulators. Adding to that frustration is both the complexity and harshness of the law and often, the absence of simple, quick, and easy solutions to environmental legal problems. 

    There is much an environmental lawyer can do to benefit the client’s interests. Counsel is best sought, of course, prior to any actual conflict arising. Environmental counsel can minimize potential client liability through compliance counseling, assistance with permitting, site and process auditing, the performance of pre-acquisition due diligence, and the presentation of public comments or testimony prior to the enactment or promulgation of statutes or regulations that may impact the client. Should issues of non-compliance or liability arise, counsel familiar with the specifics and peculiarities of environmental matters will likely be the best advocate for a client confronted with environmental concerns. 

    First and foremost, an environmental lawyer must be a good lawyer. Ask your friends, business associates and trade organizations, state or local bar and business groups, and your engineer, technical consultant or non-environmental lawyer for one or more recommendations of a lawyer or a law firm that practices environmental law. 

    Interview any lawyer that you might consider hiring. Determine their qualifications and experience. Consider first the candidate’s general qualifications, including years of experience; years of environmental law experience; their professional development through organizations, attendance at seminars, written articles, or teaching; and prior experience, including past governmental positions. Next, consider the candidate’s experience as it relates to your legal concerns. Among the many types of environmental matters which might require the assistance of environmental counsel are the sale or purchase of real property, securing a government permit, notice of a government enforcement action, a neighbor who alleges that you are polluting his property or your concerns that a neighbor has polluted your property. Determine if your candidate’s experience includes matters similar to yours. If they have never assisted a client secure a permit or has never defended a government enforcement action, he or she might not be the best-qualified environmental lawyer to resolve your legal matters. Determine if the lawyer has practiced before the government agency with which you have a conflict. While not mandatory or essential, familiarity with the specific regulator and its procedures and practices may also be helpful. 

    Ask the candidate to explain how the law works in your particular area and what type of solutions might be available. Remember, because environmental law involves the confluence of law, science and business, you should select a lawyer who not only understands the complex issues you are confronted with but who can communicate the issues and possible solutions in a clear, precise and understandable manner. If you cannot understand your lawyer, you will be frustrated and the other side, whoever it may be, is also likely to be frustrated. 

    Inquire as to what other professionals may be needed. Not only environmental engineers and consultants, but other legal professionals. Often times environmental issues arise in the context of other legal conflicts such as potential foreclosures, bankruptcy or trust and estate matters. Determine if your candidate has access to the necessary qualified professionals or if the candidate can successfully work with your existing counsel and experts. 

    Before engaging the services of an environmental lawyer, or any lawyer, discuss fees. Be aware, however, that lower hourly rates do not necessarily translate into lower total costs. Determine how your matter might be staffed, who will do the work and the likely or potential complications, which will add to the costs of a solution. Speaking to more than one candidate is the best way to determine a realistic picture of the potential range of costs and time involved and the options and approaches to solving your problem. 

    In making your final choice, do not disregard your instinct – select the lawyer you are most comfortable with and the lawyer you trust. Be wary of promises that are easy to make but difficult to keep. Make sure your lawyer listens and understands your goals and objectives but, at the same time, listen to what your lawyer says they can and cannot do for you. 

Telemedicine use spreading in NNY

Charles Wainwright – Wainwright Photo
A doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse communicates in 2016 with a patient using telemedicine technology.Use of the technology in the north country has grown exponentially over the past three years.

[Read more…]

Caprara Honda holds grand opening ceremony

Bill and Jan Cratsenberg look at cars in the showroom of the new F.X. Caprara Honda dealership during grand opening ceremonies Thursday afternoon in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, Watertown Daily Times.

Bill and Jan Cratsenberg look at cars in the showroom of the new F.X. Caprara Honda dealership during grand opening ceremonies Thursday afternoon in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, Watertown Daily Times.

The newly opened F.X. Caprara Honda dealership on outer Bradley Street held its grand opening and ribbon-cutting event throughout the day Thursday. [Read more…]

August 2016 Feature Story: Children’s Miracle Network

A new ‘miracle’ worker

Kristin M. Stockwell was named development manager for Samaritan Medical Center’s Children’s Miracle Network program in June. Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Business.

Kristin M. Stockwell was named development manager for Samaritan Medical Center’s Children’s Miracle Network program in June. Photo by Justin Sorensen, NNY Business.

Personal experience motivates CMN development manager

By Joleene Moody, NNY Business

The north country is about to experience the Children’s Miracle Network like never before. In June, Samaritan Medical Center appointed Kristin M. Stockwell as its CMN development manager. [Read more…]

August 2016 Cover Story: Telemedicine

Technology connects patients with care

The telemedicine machine utilizes a camera, top, that can be controlled remotely by a distance doctor, to analyze a patient and run tests for stroke diagnostics. The display of the doctor would be on the main computer screen, and the patient and location nurse can be seen in an inset screen, seen at bottom right. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

The telemedicine machine utilizes a camera, top, that can be controlled remotely by a distance doctor, to analyze a patient and run tests for stroke diagnostics. The display of the doctor would be on the main computer screen, and the patient and location nurse can be seen in an inset screen, seen at bottom right. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

Telemedicine another tool working to improve
access to specialists for rural residents

By Norah Machia, NNY Business

A patient recently came into Samaritan Medical Center’s Emergency Department presenting with symptoms of a possible stroke. Although a CT scan was done to rule out other causes, the physician treating the patient was still not completely convinced that stroke was the correct diagnosis. [Read more…]

Orleans, Lowville, other communities to receive funds needed for water projects

Road salt contamination has caused extensive corrosion at Andy Greene’s home in Fishers Landing, as seen here in his basement where he sits behind a corroded pipe on a hot water heater ruined by salt, holding a kitchen faucet he replaces every few years. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Road salt contamination has caused extensive corrosion at Andy Greene’s home in Fishers Landing, as seen here in his basement where he sits behind a corroded pipe on a hot water heater ruined by salt, holding a kitchen faucet he replaces every few years. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Several north country municipalities, including the town of Orleans, are getting millions of dollars in state funding for various water infrastructure projects. [Read more…]

July 2016 Feature Story: Craft Beverage

Tapping into agri-tourism

From left, Kaneb Orchards owners Edward Kaneb Jr.  and Elizabeth  Kaneb  with Kaneb Orchards marketing/sales manager Nancy Badlam at their Massena cider operation. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Business.

From left, Kaneb Orchards owners Edward Kaneb Jr.and Elizabeth
Kaneb with Kaneb Orchards marketing/sales manager Nancy Badlam at their Massena cider operation. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Business.

Region’s craft beverage industry diversifies as it grows

By Karee Magee, NNY Business

Twenty-one years after the north country’s first craft brewery, Sackets Harbor Brewing Company, opened in 1995, the craft beverage industry in the region has hit its stride as a major contributor to agri-tourism. [Read more…]

July 2016: Top Transactions

The following property sales were recorded in the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office in May:

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July 2016 Feature Story: Agri-business

Farmers get social with marketing

By Nora Machia, NNY Business

A growing number of north country farmers are taking to social media to sell their products, or in some cases, just increase awareness of them. [Read more…]

July 2016: Entrepreneur’s Edge

Don’t give up because it didn’t happen

Joleene Moody

Joleene Moody

Are you familiar with the 80/20 rule?

It’s originally known as the Pareto Principle and it basically says that 20 percent of any input creates 80 percent of the result.

In other words, only 20 percent of you will do whatever it takes to become a self-sustaining entrepreneur. [Read more…]