So You Wanna Be an Animal Lawyer?

You’re almost a senior in high school, or just starting college, and you think you might want to spend your life helping animals? What a great idea! Animals need your help and the next generation of animal lawyers is going to revolutionize animal protection laws. If you want to do something cool with your life, help animals, and impress your parents with a smart career–animal law may be for you!

animal lawyers!

What classes should I take for a career as an animal lawyer?

Actually, a wide range of classes are useful, including sociology, political science, psychology, economics, history, and anthropology, science, mathematics, logic, philosophy, and computer science. Make sure you keep a high GPA!

What is the average salary of someone working in the animal law field?

An average starting salary for a new animal lawyer is around $50,000. Many lawyers practice in the private sector and incorporate animal law into their practice. In this case, the pay scale would be based on salaries at private firms – and vary depending on the size of the firm, and the location.

What are some groups with job opportunities in the animal law field?

Animal rights nonprofits such as the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), In Defense of Animals (IDA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), employ animal lawyers. Many attorneys offer their services to ALDF on animal related cases pro bono, or free of charge.

What are some skills needed in the animal law field?

Being an animal lawyer requires an above average capability in skills such as reading, writing, speaking, listening, and analysis. In addition to those skills, being an animal lawyer takes an incredible amount of patience.

Do I get to work directly with animals?

Overall, animal lawyers work indirectly with animals; however some cases may require the attorney to interact with animals. In addition to working with passionate co-workers, animal lawyers work with judicial employees, legislators, clients, and the public.

What does a day in the life of an animal lawyer look like?

This depends on the type of law you choose to practice. ALDF has three main focuses: filing lawsuits, helping prosecutors put abusers behind bars, and animal law education–working with law schools, law students, and law firms on incorporating animal law into their legal profession.

What else should I know?

Many consider the animal protection movement one of the greatest movements of our generation. It’s a great time to get involved because there is so much work to get done and each individual has the potential to have a major impact on making the world a better place for animals.

Expert Advice from Animal Lawyers

EMILY DAVIDSOHN

Emily DavidsohnEmily is a Staff Attorney and Case Coordinator with the Oregon Humane Society. She was also featured in ALDF’s Where Are They Now? series.

What is one piece of advice you have for young lawyers interested in animal law?

EMILY: Set a goal of where you want to be or what you want to be doing and then pursue every path to reaching that goal with equal vigilance.

What do you wish you knew as a teen or had maybe done differently?

EMILY: I wish that I had known about all of the groups doing national work on animal welfare issues, like ALDF, HSUS, ASPCA, and Best Friends. These organizations are a wealth of material and opportunities for all ages and would have helped me shape my goals at an earlier age if I had known about them.

What’s your favorite thing about being an animal lawyer or studying animal law?

EMILY: The best thing about my job is being an advocate for the animals involved in our cases through every step of the investigation–from the very beginning when the report comes in until the animal is adopted out to a new forever home.

LEWIS BOLLARD

Lewis BollardLewis is a third-year law student at Yale University and winner of the Hogan/Smoger Access to Justice Essay Contest (sponsored by Public Justice) for his essay “Ag-Gag: The Unconstitutionality of Laws Restricting Undercover Investigations on Farms.”

What is one piece of advice you have for young lawyers interested in animal law?

LEWIS: Think incrementally. We’re sadly not going to litigate an end to animal abuse tomorrow, but we can reduce animals’ suffering with every lawsuit.

What do you wish you knew as a teen or had maybe done differently?

LEWIS: The law is not the only way to fight for animals. If you’re passionate about the law, become an animal lawyer. But if you’re not, pursue your passion for politics, business, advertising, or whatever, and put that skill to use for the animals.

What’s your favorite thing about being an animal lawyer or studying animal law?

LEWIS: The prospect of helping animals… It’s worth getting up in the morning if you might be able to help a hen trapped in a battery cage or a pig stuck in a gestation crate live a happier life.

MATTHEW LIEBMAN

Alexis FoxMatthew Liebman is a senior attorney at ALDF and co-author of the first-of-its-kind book on international variations of animal law, entitled A Worldview of Animal Law.

What is one piece of advice you have for young lawyers interested in animal law?

MATTHEW: Think hard about what you want to accomplish for animals and make sure you’re choosing the career path that will best enable you to make a difference.

What do you wish you knew as a teen or had maybe done differently?

MATTHEW: I became a vegetarian when I was 15, but I wish I knew then how much cruelty is involved in the production of dairy and eggs, not just meat. I didn’t go vegan until I was twenty; I wish I had done it sooner.

What’s your favorite thing about being an animal lawyer or studying animal law?

MATTHEW: The best part of being an animal protection lawyer is seeing how our cases create real differences for animals. In one case, we rescued several pregnant horses from horrific neglect, and a few months later, I got to see them frolicking in a pasture with their foals. In another case, we sued to remove a bear from a tiny concrete cell, ultimately placing him in a naturalistic sanctuary where he can splash around in his swimming pool and explore his surroundings. Seeing the law have such a tangible, material difference in the lives of animals is incredibly rewarding.

ALEXIS FOX

Alexis FoxAlexis Fox is the Massachusetts State Director of the Humane Society of the United States and was featured in ALDF’s Where Are They Now? series.

What is one piece of advice you have for young lawyers interested in animal law?

ALEXIS: Find a mentor! The field of animal law is filled with friendly attorneys and advocates who want to help you find your way. You are the future of our movement and we want to help you help animals. So reach out, ask to meet for a cup of coffee and talk with mentors who can guide you as you find your place in this fight for animal protection.

What do you wish you knew as a teen or had maybe done differently?

ALEXIS: I wish I had read Dale Carnegie’s book How to Wins Friends and Influence People at a much younger age. It was first published in 1936 but the lessons inside are timeless. I also wish I had read Ethics Into Action by Peter Singer a long time ago. Both books are now required reading for my interns.

What’s your favorite thing about being an animal lawyer or studying animal law?

ALEXIS: I love that we are writing history. Whenever I am told that something cannot be done I remind myself that it just has not been done yet.

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