Northwestern University Law School: Establishing an Animal Legal Protection Clinic

According to Nicole Roth, former President of the Northwestern Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, she and her co-authors Annie Wallis and Kathleen Sanderson, also SALDF members, always possessed an affinity for animals. Only recently, with the help of a $1 million grant to Northwestern University School of Law by Bob Barker to endow a more serious study of animal law, were they able to pursue their interest academically.

The three of them were enrolled in the animal law seminar that Mr. Barker’s grant endowed, and through what they learned in that course and a frustration with the way that animals are treated in our society, they were inspired to investigate the law further and examine ways in which students interested in animal law could take action. From that initial inspiration grew the project being featured here – both to devise a guide for establishing an animal legal protection clinic at a law school, and to actually establish one at Northwestern.

Nicole and her co-authors researched and wrote the proposal as a joint senior research project, each receiving 4 credit hours. They worked with two faculty advisors: Sam Tenenbaum, an expert in complex civil litigation and a professor in the Northwestern Bluhm Legal Clinic, and Leigh Beinen, their professor in animal law. The approach to this guide was multi-faceted.

First, they explored generally the field of animal law, what it encompasses, and why it matters. They then identified the wide spectrum of animal issues and related laws, performing a survey of the governing statutes, enforcement mechanisms, and opportunities for improvement in each area. For each of these, they used Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago as illustrative examples of the ways that statutes interact at the various levels and enforcement is actually achieved. In order to flesh out their understanding of these areas, they conducted interviews of and gathered information from over 50 professionals in the field, both within the Chicago area and nationally. These included police officers, State’s Attorneys, judges, humane organization representatives, animal law committee chairs, attorneys in private practice, and professors. These interviews helped to identify the specific areas in Chicago that could most benefit from the involvement of law students.

Next, they conducted comprehensive research into the value and validity of clinical education, including research into clinical programs nationwide and identification of various clinical models. Finally, they researched the logistical requirements for establishing a clinic, and taking these together with the available clinical education models and our findings about the greatest areas of need, they made recommendations about the appropriate approach for Northwestern.

Although they were not initially able to establish a program at Northwestern before they graduated, Nicole, Annie, and Kathleen were able to complete the guide. They hope that it can serve as a toolkit for like-minded students and administrators across the nation in establishing a variety of legal programs designed to protect animals. ALDF is pleased to be a supporter of this project. ALDF will be providing copies of this manual in the coming months.

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