She rolls her eyes when we refer to her as the “Mother of Animal Law” here at the office, but Joyce Tischler is, singularly, the person most responsible for the development and advancement of the field of animal law. This week the American Bar Association TIPS Animal Law Committee will honor Joyce by granting her the Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award.
Joyce didn’t set out thirty years ago with a plan to boldly pioneer and champion a new field of law. She had her sights set on the manual typewriter on which she hammered out some of her earliest complaints and pleadings to the courts on behalf of animals. Joyce simply knew that as a young attorney she wanted to put her law degree to work protecting animals.
But she quickly realized she was not alone. Her work struck a nerve with other law professionals who wanted to help animals as well. She organized meetings for some of the interested local attorneys in San Francisco, and she began to correspond with other attorneys from all across the country. Unwittingly, the Mother of Animal Law had given birth to a movement.
A core group of these compassionate law professionals became the founding members of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Over the next 26 years, with Joyce serving as its Executive Director, ALDF filed countless groundbreaking lawsuits and laid the foundation necessary for animal law to be taken seriously as a field of law in law schools, law firms and Bar associations across the country.
Although ALDF remains the only specifically animal law-focused organization, today nearly every animal protection group has lawyers and a legal strategy to complement their work. In addition, there are now 140 student chapters of the Animal Legal Defense Fund in law schools across the U.S. and Canada, including every one of the nation’s top ten law schools, and more than 110 law schools now teach an animal law class. And, last year, ALDF entered into collaboration with Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon to create the first-of-its-kind Center for Animal Law Studies.
It is not characteristic of Joyce to make much of her role in building this movement. Indeed, one of the things that define Joyce to anyone who knows her is her combination of strength and humility. But her persistent advocacy and clear leadership has been a force for change that would not be denied. It is my honor to say both congratulations and thank you from myself and everyone at ALDF and, most importantly, for the animals whose voices have been heard clearly and without fail through the voice of the Mother of Animal Law.
ALDF received the below email from Robyn Katz, President of the Texas Tech University Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF). Robyn formed the chapter during fall semester 2007 amid doubts about the level of support she could garner for the fledgling group at her conservative law school. In spite of these concerns, Robin was pleasantly surprised when almost 20 people attended the group's first orientation meeting, which, according to Robyn, is a large number for any student law group at Texas Tech. In addition to her work directing the Texas Tech SALDF chapter, Robyn was also a closing argument finalist in the National Animal Advocacy Competitions held last month at Harvard Law School, co-sponsored by the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis and Clark Law School, in Collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Harvard SALDF chapter. It’s encouraging to see Robyn’s dedication to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system being recognized by her traditionally conservative school.
I just want to keep you posted. At our law school, four students were nominated to receive the Student Academic-Citizenship Award for the entire school. So, four students are nominated, and the Dean chooses one to go on to the entire Texas Tech University Awards ceremony to see who wins from the whole school. I make such a to-do about animal law at the school (a super conservative, don't disrupt the status quo kinda school), that I swore I wouldn't get chosen. But they did!!! The Dean picked me to represent the law school! And so now, the best thing is, all of Texas Tech will get to hear about my devotion to animal law and it will help spread the word. I hope, in some way, this helps the ALDF and SALDF.
In June Andrew Brighten and I packed up our houses and our spouses and headed to Cotati, California for a summer litigation clerkship with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Andy traveled from Montreal, Canada; I flew from Portland, Oregon.
Throughout the summer we learned a great deal from attorneys Joyce Tischler and Matthew Liebman. Joyce lent us wonderful insight into where the animal protection law movement has been and where it is headed next. Matthew, a blue book king, ensured neither of us ever misplaced a comma when we cited cases, and exposed us to the way ALDF strategically builds cases against animal abusers.
Andy and I also taught each other quite a bit. We both ran our schools’ Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters last year. Soon after meeting, we discovered we had a lot to talk about regarding our SALDF chapters and our animal law courses. At the conference table during lunch, in the car on the way to hearings and in our sunny corner office, we shared our experiences and discussed the common challenges we face. The lesson we learned is that animal law students need to be connected and stay connected.
Andy and I go to very different law schools when it comes to animal law. McGill University’s Faculty of Law is one of the first Canadian law schools to offer an animal law course, and its SALDF chapter is relatively young. On the other hand, Lewis and Clark Law School has a well established animal law program. We have an animal law journal, a clinic, and the school offers a few animal law classes each semester. Nevertheless, our SALDF chapters face similar challenges. For example, both our chapters had internal debates about the role veganism should play in the group. Both chapters also struggled to find a balance between working with other student groups while also competing against them for students’ time and attention.
Another frequent topic of conversation related to what we should do for animals when we graduate. In Canada there are virtually no full-time animal lawyers and few obvious jobs waiting for students interested in animal law upon graduation. In the States the field is growing rapidly but there remain very few full time jobs for new attorneys in animal protection law. So, what should we do with our enthusiasm for animal protection and our education in animal protection law? For both of us, until graduation, this question will remain unanswered. Yet, I am sure we are not the only two animal law students holding our breath in anticipation. And, it is always encouraging to hash out ideas with another person in a similar situation.
In the meantime, our conversations did result in several concrete suggestions for meeting some of the challenges discussed over the summer. For instance, Andy showed me that internet social networking sites such as Facebook can be used to invite other students to SALDF events and to keep SALDF members connected over the summer and after graduation. I, in turn, suggested that members of McGill’s SALDF attend the Animal Law Conference at Lewis and Clark Law School, which will be Oct. 17-19 this year. The conference is the perfect time to meet other students, learn about a wide range of issues in animal protection law and hear from the leaders of the movement.
Andy and I learned how useful it can be to connect with another animal law student. We would like to encourage other students to reach out to each other. The animal law student experience is relatively new. Just seven years ago, there were only twelve SALDF chapters; now there are 125. To keep up the momentum that students before us created, we need to sustain a dialogue and support each others’ efforts to educate fellow students about animal protection issues, develop animal law programs at our schools and advance the interests of animals in the courts. Social networking sites and animal law conferences can help animal law students connect. Moreover they can encourage animal law students to stay connected. So, if you are a student, please consider going online to find other students interested in animal law, and come to the conference at Lewis and Clark this fall! We would love to meet you.