Where Are They Now? Kayci McLeod
Kayci McLeod is a Texas native and long-time animal advocate. She attended Trinity University in San Antonio, and later attended law school at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon. She chose this school, she explains, because it allowed her to specialize in the field of animal law.
“I have loved animals for as long as I can remember,” Kayci says. Her first companion animal was a dog that her mother rescued from a lonely life of being chained to a tree. Kayci credits her mother for her own compassionate view of nonhuman animals. “While I was in college, I found a dirty, emaciated cat in my driveway. She was covered in fleas and scabs, one eye was swollen shut, and she was unable to meow. She weighed only four pounds, but was a year and a half old! After taking her in, I knew I wanted to find a career that involved helping animals.”
And that’s just what Kayci does. Her work is a testament to the ways that animal lawyers can participate in the field without being a litigator or prosecutor. She started her career working with farmed animal issues for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) but moved to the General Counsel’s office in 2013. “I never imagined that I would practice this type of law,” she laughs, “but I love working to help an organization that does such great things for animals.” In her current role as Assistant General Counsel for HSUS, Kayci McLeod uses her expertise in animal law in unexpected ways. She advises on more traditional legal matters—such as insurance, contracts, employment law, and so forth—which in turn allows HSUS staff to continue to do the great work they do for animals.
While attending law school, Kayci completed a semester-long externship with HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation Section. She also did a similar externship with the Oregon Humane Society’s Cruelty Investigations Department, where Kayci worked with Emily Davidsohn. Kayci joined Lewis & Clark’s student chapter of ALDF (SALDF) as soon as she arrived there, and served as the SALDF chapter’s treasurer during her second year.
Kayci is drawn to the variety her role at HSUS affords her. “In my time here, I have done everything from drafting employment policies, to researching worker’s compensation laws, to analyzing insurance contracts for coverage issues. I also review press releases and fundraising materials for legal issues and advise other departments of HSUS, such as the undercover investigations team.”
As an example of one of many ways attorneys can make a difference for animals, Kayci encourages new lawyers to think beyond their immediate goals and think innovatively about their career options. “With the job market new lawyers are facing, I think it is important to diversify your work experience and choice of classes. In addition to animal law classes, choose a few classes outside of that box which could be applied in the animal context.” Finally, she encourages all attorneys to donate service to animal organizations where they can as they build their careers. “Pro bono work can help new lawyers discover unexpected areas of interest, and can serve as a valuable networking tool.”
“Kayci gives great advice about how obtaining a variety of experience with different specializations can be a huge benefit to animals and the organizations working on their behalf,” says Nicole Pallota, ALDF’s student programs coordinator. “We are so proud to see the wonderful work former SALDF members like Kayci are doing to help animals in their post-graduate careers.”
Kayci lives in Washington, DC with two adorable cats: Soco, an orange tabby, and Shiner—the survivor kitty she once found matted and tattered in her driveway.
Among ALDF’s many efforts to support the field of animal law is our growing network of Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters on law school campuses throughout the U.S. and Canada. SALDF chapters provide a forum for education, advocacy, and scholarship, aiming to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. In this continuing series of updates on former SALDF members, ALDF is proud to spotlight Kayci McLeod.