Chemical engineering degree helps alumnus excel in environmental law career

DETROIT (Jan. 11, 2013) – As a chemical engineering student at Wayne State University, James T. Weiner never imagined he would one day practice environmental law. But with his engineering degree as a solid foundation, Weiner was able to realize his passion and build a successful career as an attorney.



After graduating from the College of Engineering in 1980, Weiner worked for a chemical manufacturer that made specialty chemicals for metal finishing operations. Despite having no formal training, Weiner’s interest in environmental issues led to an assignment as the company’s sole environmental engineer.

“The hazardous wastes were getting to the appropriate facilities for proper disposal, for example, but the company was out of compliance and could have been fined because the paperwork was not right,” Weiner said. “I became interested in environmental regulations and how illogical, to me as an engineer, they really were.

Sponsored by his boss, Weiner pursued his interest in environmental regulations and enrolled in law school at the University of Detroit. After graduating in 1991, Weiner began practicing as an attorney, but also found time to teach environmental engineering courses for eight years in Wayne State’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

“My chemical engineering degree has allowed me to grasp ideas and present them in ways that most attorneys cannot so I can be a particularly effective advocate,” said Weiner. “It has also allowed me to oversee projects that a typical attorney cannot.”

Weiner’s expertise covers a wide variety of environmental issues, including permitting of waste treatment and air pollution control systems; industrial process engineering; auditing the environmental compliance of industry in the United States and Europe; the handling, storage and transportation of hazardous materials; and Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance.

In addition to practicing environmental law, in recent years Weiner also has become an advocate for land conservation.

“My current passion is land conservation, specifically maintaining open space and conserving nature in our local areas,” he said. “This passion developed over the past few years as I got more involved with the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy. I currently am president of the organization and devote a lot of time and effort to it.”  

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Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students. For more information about engineering at Wayne State University, visit


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