Why you should consider practicing Planning & Environment Law in the UK

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  • Why you should consider practicing Planning & Environment Law in the UK

I began recruiting Planning & Environment Lawyers in 2002.  I didn’t take long to realise that they are nice people who were enthusiastic about the work that they do.  This led to me developing my own interest in working in this sector.  Having now recruited in Planning for over 20 years at all levels, it got me thinking as to why I enjoy collaborating with clients and candidates in this space so much and why others should consider it as a career.  This piece is aimed at trainees, paralegals and aspiring lawyers.

Given the variety of different options available to junior and aspiring lawyers within the legal profession, not to mention the money at US firms, it is understandable that planning is sometimes overlooked as a career option for solicitors.  However, I believe it can offer a rewarding long-term career and below are a few reasons why.

It’s Tangible

If you enjoy seeing the results of your work and the legacy it creates, then this could be the sector for you.  The projects you can work on throughout the course of a career can be vast.  It can involve tall buildings, sports stadia, wind farms, solar projects, affordable housing, giant regeneration schemes, transport projects, nuclear power stations, energy from waste projects, ports, airports, road schemes.  If you have an interest in the built environment, then this is a great area to work in and one where you will be able to directly see the results of what you do.  I am sure there are lawyers using The Elizabeth Line today thinking, I played a part in creating this.

It’s Evolving

Evolving might be the wrong word to use here as it implies slow and steady change.  Recently it seems to have been anything but.  With a steady stream of judgements, new legislation and policies, planning always needs legal experts on hand to interpret what these changes are likely to mean for the clients and the implications for their projects.  You only need to look at some of the regular content produced by some of the leading firms and chambers to see this.  This means there will always be a need for lawyers in planning and environment to interpret these changes.

It’s Niche

Being a key expert in a sector such as planning means that you are the go-to person when complex planning or environmental issues arise.  Sometimes they can save the deal!  The need for this advice on tap is invaluable for firms and why practices continually look to hire planning experts and create niche centres of excellence.

It’s Varied

Planning can offer a wide variety of work and there is something for everyone.  There are contentious elements for those who enjoy this aspect, the opportunity to work on development consent orders, compulsory purchase, judicial reviews and planning inquiries.  There are opportunities in large firms, boutique firms, central government, local government and increasingly in-house with developers, energy companies, tech companies, utilities and government bodies.

It’s Political

This seems more apparent now than ever.  If you have an interest in politics and how government policy influences the outcome of decisions, or want to understand why it is so difficult to build infrastructure in the UK, then this is a good sector to be involved in.  Politics moves quickly and cabinet reshuffles, budgets and elections all have impacts. The recent decision to cancel HS2, Michael Gove’s decision not to allow M&S to rebuild their flagship store, the delay to Heathrow expansion for air quality reasons and are all decent examples of this.  Local politics can also play a part as can be seen from the recent decision over the expansion plans of the All-England Club in Wimbledon.  Politics remains intrinsically linked to this sector and is therefore a good choice for those who love to follow it.

It’s Innovative and collaborative.

As Planning and Environment is populated by people who love it, there is a strong network of influencers and thought leaders.  By getting into it, you will be joining a group of like-minded individuals and as a result, you will always be able to seek advice.  When a major judgement takes place, or a new piece of legislation is introduced, there is always useful commentary interpreting what this means.  The tech side of planning is also being heavily invested in with AI and Data likely to have a considerable influence as to how we build towns and cities in the future.

So, there you have it.  Although it is sometimes overlooked in favour of the perceived “sexy” areas of law, there will always be a need for Planning Lawyers.  for me, it is and always will be a growth area.

About The Author

Picture of Stuart Phillips
Stuart Phillips
Picture of Stuart Phillips
Stuart Phillips

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