World’s Youngest Animal Lawyer?

Posted by Tom Linney, Pro Bono Coordinator on January 10, 2012

I just got back from Washington D.C. and a productive visit at the 2012 Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting. For those of you unfamiliar, the AALS is a non-profit educational association of 172 law schools representing more than 10,000 law faculty in the U.S., and its Annual Meeting constitutes the largest gathering of law faculty in the world.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund was an exhibitor at the five day meeting so I had the pleasure of speaking with distinguished law school professors, deans, and administrators about ALDF and animal law. It was the perfect opportunity to let these folks know about all of the resources ALDF’s Animal Law Program (ALP) makes available to those interested in teaching animal law and to law students interested in forming Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters. Several attendees were surprised to learn just how much the field has grown in the last 12 years — with more than 135 law schools in the U.S. and Canada now having offered a course in animal law, and more than 170 law schools having had a SALDF chapter.

But the unexpected highlight for me was meeting a young man from Nevada interested in animal law. Okay, young man is a bit of a stretch, he was nine. He stopped by ALDF’s exhibit with his parents and grandparents in tow, one of which was a law school professor. He came prepared with a list of questions for me and explained how he has always cared about animals and had only wanted to be a vet. But apparently one quick visit to the U.S. Supreme Court shook that dream up a bit. He confidently stood in front of the ALDF table and explained how he wanted to be an attorney for animals. He had great questions about what it would take for him to get there, what kind of animals he would be helping, what kinds of things could he be doing now, whether he could be a vet and an attorney at the same time, and even asked how I felt about an article that discussed emotional distress damages for when an animal is injured or killed. This young man was obviously bright and compassionate, a common set of traits found in ALDF’s attorney members. But at the young age of nine, he was truly inspiring. Wherever Nathan ends up in life, I’m sure he’ll be helping animals. I’m just secretly hoping it’s at least partially through the law.


5 thoughts on “World’s Youngest Animal Lawyer?

  1. Katherine Rogers says:

    It is such a comfort to know that young people will continue to “carry the torch” for the protection of animal rights. As I get older I find myself hoping that people will always be there for all the animals and they will not be forgotten as this world gets so complex! I will sleep well tonight…with my three rescue dogs!:)

  2. diane s. says:

    wonder if you had a chance to visit the National Zoo and observe behaviors of different animal species living in captivity under conditions imposed by humans?

  3. Chris B says:

    That is so sweet!

  4. Katherine McGill says:

    Very inspiring post, Tom. Thank you for sharing Nathan with us.

  5. Jana Wright says:

    As far as recovering damages for emotional distress for the killing of animals, I had the unfortunate experience of learning this through my own experience. Animals are unfortunately treated as nothing more than “property” in the eyes of the law, and when my rescue dog was intentionally run over by a UPS employee, I realized just how difficult it is to prove IIED claims in court. In Alabama, I pursued the case civilly and ended up recovering damages. Like Nathan, I want to help with animal law and am currently in law school with thoughts of attending veterinary school as well. I love that there are others so young that realize animals are more than “property” — they are family. I hope the judicial system begins to realize this sooner rather than later.