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Job Week at Our Hen House: Day 4 — Legal Eagles

By Mariann Sullivan — December 29, 2011

The law is the way in which a society turns principles into reality. It’s all very fine and good to call ourselves a nation of animal lovers, but without laws reflecting and enforcing those values, we end up instead where we are right now — a nation that pretends to love animals but allows them to be treated with rampant, horrifying abuse.

So it’s no wonder that so many of those who care about animals are eager to get involved in legal work. Of course, many, many lawyers who care about animals don’t make animal law their career. Instead, they help out animal organizations by doing pro bono work whenever they can. Or, even better, by bringing lawsuits that do good for the animals and make them a lot of money at the same time. But for those who want to do this full-time, there are some opportunities out there. Here are a few current ones:

For law students, an upaid summer internship with an animal protection organization is the most valuable experience that you can get, regardless of whether you ultimately make animal law your full-time career, or your part-time passion. Compassion Over Killing is seeking legal interns for this summer and I can’t think of a better learning opportunity than working with Cheryl Leahy, COK’s general counsel and one of the best and the brightest that animal law has to offer. For more information, contact COK at legal[at] The Humane Society of the United States is also seeking interns for their crack legal department.

On the professor front, Lewis and Clark University currently has a few outstanding opportunities. They are seeking a visiting faculty member to teach animal law starting in the 2012-2013 academic year . They are also seeking an administrator (with teaching responsibilities) for their brand spanking new LLM program in animal law. And even if you’re not a professor, if you have an expertise in animal law, don’t hesitate to check out whether you local law school has a course in animal law. If not, you may be just the person they are looking for to start one up.

Careers in Animal Law

Lawyers who want a job practicing law with an animal protection organization have to look to organizations large enough to have a legal department, or at least a general counsel, and these will not always be organizations with a specifically vegan philosophy. But, as long as the job doesn’t involve work that you actually don’t believe in, that can actually present a wonderful opportunity to bring a vegan philosophy into your workplace. These jobs can be hard to find, but they’re out there. One organization that is looking right now is the ASPCA, which wants to fill two remote positions, Legal Advocacy Counsel, which will involve the provision of back-up and hands-on assistance to prosecutors and investigators involved in animal cruelty cases across the country, and State Legislative Director. Another possibility is to look for an opportunity on the environmental side of animal law. For example, Defenders of Wildlife is currently seeking an Endangered Species Policy Associate, and Earthjustice is seeking associate attorneys in its offices in Florida and Alaska.

For further ideas on how to find a job in animal law, or to fit animal law into your career, you might want to check out Yolanda Eisenstein’s new book, Careers in Animal Law.

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