Opportunities in Animal Law

Dogfighting, tainted pet food, domestic violence and animal cruelty, pet custody and will disputes, animal hoarding, free speech and animal cruelty videos. The issues that fill today’s headlines reflect the rapid growth in the field of animal law.

At the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we want to help students find a meaningful way to merge their profession with their passion for animals. This “Opportunities in Animal Law” booklet is intended as a resource for students and graduates interested in this dynamic and cutting-edge area of the law. In this booklet, you will find information about clerkships, scholarships, job and pro bono opportunities, law journals, research tools, Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) chapters and much more.

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Opportunities and funding resources for SALDF chapters:

Animal Law Clerkship Program

Through our innovative Animal Law Clerkship Program, we offer clerkship positions with ALDF and the Center for Animal Law Studies. ALDF offers part-time and full-time clerkships in our litigation, criminal justice, legislative affairs, & animal law programs. Clerkships are for a period of 10 weeks in the summer and 14 weeks in the fall or spring. They are open to second and third year students only.

ALDF Advancement of Animal Law Scholarships

Each year ALDF awards a limited number of “Advancement of Animal Law Scholarships” to second- and third-year law SALDF members who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to animal law and ALDF’s mission while in law school and anticipate participating in the field after graduation. Scholarship awards are in the amount of $2,500 or $5,000.

Free Materials

ALDF Email Lists 

Students can subscribe to ALDF’s law student email list and receive info about animal law related:

  • employment, internship, and volunteer opportunities
  • grants and scholarships
  • educational opportunities
  • conferences, CLEs, and competitions
  • writing contests
  • case updates
  • chapter project ideas

SALDF members can also sign up for ALDF’s Action Alerts and receive urgent updates on cruelty cases around the country, and what you can do to help win justice for animals. Letters, emails, and phone calls from concerned members of the public often make the crucial difference for animals in cases of criminal animal cruelty.

ALDF Law Student Membership

ALDF offers a special membership for law students (dues are $15 per year). Membership benefits include:

We also offer a complimentary one-year attorney membership in ALDF to recent law graduates.

About Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF)

Within recent years, interest in the growing field of animal law has virtually exploded.  By way of comparison, there were only 12 SALDF chapters in 2000. Thirteen years later, SALDF chapters have been formed at more than 190 schools (including the top ten law schools in the U.S.). Today’s SALDF members will be instrumental in advancing legal protections for animals as tomorrow’s animal protection lawyers, prosecutors, and judges. Many compare animal law today to the emergent environmental law movement thirty years ago.

The steps required to form an SALDF chapter vary depending on each law school’s requirements for student groups, but the process is very easy. ALDF has created materials to help with the process, including sample by-laws, chapter requirements, and a step-by-step guide to forming a chapter.

SALDF chapters find many creative ways to contribute to the animal law movement, including working with their school to add an animal law course to the curriculum (as more than 100 law schools now do), inviting speakers to talk about various issues, screening films, raising money for local rescue organizations, and so on. Find a list of project ideas here.

Through ALDF’s student chapter grants program, established SALDF groups can apply for funding from ALDF to support these and other student chapter projects, including travel to animal law conferences and competitions. Events like the Annual Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark and the National Animal Law Advocacy Competitions at Harvard Law School are wonderful educational and networking opportunities for students interested in animal law. Our SALDF grants program provides support to chapter members by helping with travel costs.

Because animal law intersects with so many other “traditional” areas of law, there are myriad publishing opportunities in academic law journals. There are also some journals devoted exclusively to animal law.

Again, because animal law intersects many other areas of the law, there are many options for collaboration with other student groups when seeking to organize a speaker panel or other event. Here are just a few examples:

  • Environmental Law Society: Factory Farms & Water/Air Pollution
  • National Lawyers Guild: Civil Liberties & Animal Rights Activism
  • Women’s Law Society: Domestic Violence & Animal Cruelty
  • Human Rights Society: Slaughterhouses & Human Rights Abuses
  • Criminal Law Society: Animal Cruelty Prosecution & Activist Defense
  • Constitutional Law Society: Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act
  • International Law Society: Wildlife

Graduation and Beyond

Because interest in animal law is growing much faster than the animal law job market, we encourage students interested in animal law to “keep your options open.” The unfortunate reality is that a lot of students who go to law school to practice animal law will not be able to find paying positions in the field when they graduate. So stay open to the possibility of practicing some other kind of law that may implicate animal protection indirectly: environmental law, family law, free speech law, criminal law. Or consider doing animal law as a pro bono side project. One way to do this is to join ALDF’s Animal Law Program and become part of our growing pro bono network. Our attorney members help with:

  • research and writing
  • citation checking
  • filing amicus briefs
  • litigating cases
  • and assisting prosecutors with animal cruelty cases.

There are a number of ways to forge a career in animal law if you keep an open mind and entrepreneurial spirit. Besides doing pro bono work for ALDF, other options include:

  • Staff Attorney – Work for an animal protection group
  • Private Practitioner – Devote your practice to a variety of animal related issues, including veterinary malpractice, landlord/tenant issues, trusts for companion animals, and custody disputes
  • Lobbyist – Use your degree to advocate for animal-friendly legislation
  • Prosecutor – Work within the criminal justice system to enforce animal cruelty laws
  • Pro Bono Work – Practice and promote animal law pro bono work within your firm through ALDF’s Animal Law Program.

ALDF Animal Law Institute Litigation Fellowship

The ALDF Animal Law Institute is now offering an Animal Law Institute Litigation Fellowship. The Institute is a world-class, first-of-its-kind program that, by training classes of promising litigators in strategic impact litigation, will further ALDF’s mission to protect the lives and advance the interests of all animals. The Fellow will learn to develop state and federal strategic impact litigation and legislation to better the lives and legal status of animals. The Fellow will operate as part of a team, but will ultimately be responsible for the innovation and success of his or her projects while developing litigation skills. The model applicant must have earned a J.D. within the past three years, excelled in school, earned strong work references, and have a sincere and proven interest in animal protection. The primary focus of this clerkship is on civil animal law issues, but Fellows will be exposed to criminal anti-cruelty cases as well.

Other Resources: The Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis and Clark Law School

In 2008, a historic collaborative effort between the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Lewis & Clark Law School (L&C) in Portland, Oregon, brought about the creation of the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS).

The Center for Animal Law Studies, in collaboration with ALDF, is an academic and scholarly animal law program dedicated to:

  1. Training future leaders for careers in Animal Law and public policy;
  2. Conducting high-quality, independent legal research that advances the field of Animal Law;
  3. Developing innovative recommendations and legal strategies relating to Animal Law within administrative, legislative, litigation and other settings;
  4. Creating a scholarly environment where students, regardless of particular point of view, feel included and respected; and
  5. Ensuring that the interests of animals are always considered as the field develops.

CALS provides essential programs and services for law students under the guidance of experienced animal law professors and ALDF attorneys. The history between ALDF and L&C is long and rich with both institutions acting as leaders in the animal law field. L&C has been a leader in animal law since the early 1990s and currently offers the most extensive program in animal law studies. For this reason, it made perfect sense for ALDF and L&C to join forces through the creation of the CALS, a first-of-its-kind venture.

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