Attorney Laura Miller donated tremendous expert legal assistance in ALDF’s groundbreaking lawsuit against Hudson Valley Foie Gras for advertising their products as humane. Laura has always loved animals but this was the first time she had been involved in a case involving their treatment—and her expertise in trademark issues was especially valuable. She says ALDF’s case was important because it addressed the intersection of consumer rights and animal protection. “There is often more than one way to tackle a problem and small victories can have big impacts,” she says. “ALDF used established principles of federal and state law concerning unfair competition to bring attention to the treatment of animals in the farming industry.”
Laura notes the case against Hudson Valley raises attention to misleading or confusing advertising practices commonly seen in grocery stores every day; labeling such as “cage free,” “pasture raised,” and “grass fed.” She explains, “the manner in which farming techniques are advertised affects the decisions people make about their eating habits—and I think labeling could be improved significantly in this area.” Hudson Valley Foie Gras–the largest foie gras producer in the nation—has now removed all references to foie gras being “humane” from its website.
Laura feels strongly that the legal system cannot work effectively if people do not have access to lawyers who help clients work through legal processes like these. Laura coordinates her firm’s mentoring program with Chicago Legal Prep Charter Academy, a free, legal-themed high school for Chicago public school students. Each month lawyers and students get together and work on a legal issue. The mentoring program allows students to learn about the law while developing analytical skills that they can use now and in the future. Laura also volunteers through Legal Aid Foundation of Chicago, working on immigration-related pro bono matters.
New lawyers provide a service to their pro bono clients while developing valuable case management skills in the process. “It is a win-win situation,” she says, “and there is no better feeling than having a client thank you for helping them obtain the services they need for their child, or to earn a living.” Similarly, pro bono work can keep young lawyers grounded and remind them why they went to law school—which is easy to lose sight of after reviewing documents for three weeks straight.
Laura remembers her own training well. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a J.D. from The College of William and Mary Marshall Wythe School of Law—and she is a registered patent attorney before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Laura is a shareholder in the Chicago office of Brinks Gilson & Lione, where she co-chairs the firm’s International Trade Practice group. Her practice focuses on patent, trade secret, and trademark issues, as well as on client counseling on complex commercial issues, including licensing, anti-trust and contract issues affecting business operations, product services, and technology.
She lives in Chicago with her daughter, and their cat, though they share fond memories of a wonderful dog named Smokey, and another cat called Bonkers, who lived up to his name. She advises young lawyers that: “any day you can wake up and go to work knowing you’ll be doing something that interests you is a good day. If you’ve decided animal law is that interest, you should find a way to make it happen.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund would never be able to use the law to advance the interests of animals without the support of legal professionals nationwide. In this continuing series of spotlights, ALDF salutes attorney Laura Miller.