student convention 2018

The second annual Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Convention was held in Chicago, IL on Friday, October 12, 2018 and hosted over 85 law students from fifty Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapters across the country.

The Student Convention provides law students opportunities to meet and mingle with one another before the Animal Law Conference, which is co-presented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School, and the Lewis & Clark Animal Legal Defense Fund Student Chapter. Representatives from over 50 student chapters from the United States, Canada, and India were welcomed with a delicious plant-based breakfast as they met fellow students for the first time or reconnected with others they have already met.

The morning started with a wonderful career panel featuring animal law attorneys practicing in wide-ranging fields, including criminal law, education, pro bono work, government, and civil litigation. The career panelists introduced students to the variety of career options available to them post-graduation and often reiterated how the “one size fits all” method does not work for animal law.

Instead, the panelists encouraged students to find out what they love about the law and to incorporate animal law into that interest. The panelists also provided insight and advice on law school, clerkships, law courses, and so much more! “This convention provided an amazing opportunity to meet advocates in our field that are making a real change,” Heather Sierstorpff, 3L at FAMU College of Law, said of the career panel.

After the career panel, students were treated to a fantastic lunch and inspirational keynote. Jessica Rubin, Director of the University of Connecticut School of Law’s Legal Practice Program, spoke about her instrumental role in creating and managing Desmond’s Law in Connecticut.

Desmond’s Law allows for court-appointed legal advocates to testify on behalf of animals in criminal court proceedings. Not only does Professor Rubin manage the clinic that trains and supervises law students who act as these legal advocates, she also was instrumental in getting the law passed in the state. Her keynote walked students through this process and included some of the cases that have been successfully advocated. It was extremely motivating to hear what is being done and how this model can be recreated elsewhere in the country. Many students were left thinking of ways that they can play an active part in bringing this groundbreaking legislation to their own states to further their advocacy efforts on behalf of animals.

The Law Student Scholarship Panel was up next and it featured three law students whose winning papers on wildlife were selected from a committee of animal law professors.

Barbara Perez, a recent graduate of FAMU Law School, presented her paper “Hendry County’s Best Kept Secret: Possible Legal Challenges to Non-Human Primate Breeding Facilities”, detailing the legal issues surrounding primate breeding facilities located in a small Florida town.

Ashley Kunz, a 3L at St. Mary’s University School of Law San Antonio, presented her paper “The Perverted Ark: Failures, Successes, and Solutions to Protect the World’s Rarest Creatures from International Trafficking”, which focuses on the poaching and trafficking of pangolins to a critical point for the species’ survival and what might be done to protect them from further exploitation.

Lastly, Judah Lieblich, Florida State University College of Law, presented his paper “Minimum Size Restrictions are a Problem for Fisheries – Is Litigation the Solution?”, describing the practical and legal issues with minimum size restrictions of commercial and recreational fishing, along with potential litigation tactics to remove these restrictions for a more effective model.

All three students were stellar presenters and also spoke to their own experiences of brainstorming topics and writing a paper for presentation. These experiences acted as great examples for other students on how they might do the same.

The final portion of the Student Convention was the Student Chapter Summit. The Summit is always a highlight of the convention, as it brings the students together for a chance to discuss their ideas, concerns, and advice regarding Animal Legal Defense Fund student chapters at their schools.

Kelly Levenda, Student Programs Attorney, Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager, and Priscilla Rader, Education Coordinator, first provided information on the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s opportunities and resources available to student chapter members. Afterwards, the students were divided into groups and given prompts to discuss. These smaller groups then presented what they discussed to the larger group. Student chapters often face similar challenges, and the Summit provides a safe space to share advice or concerns regarding these challenges. It also provides space for chapter members to share their successes and highlights, which is always so encouraging to hear.

On the Summit, Kartik Raj, a 1L at UCLA Law School, shared that “meeting so many great students makes you realize the incredible determination, integrity, and talent that we will see in the next generation of animal protection lawyers. Our movement is winning, and when I meet these inspiring students it’s easy to see why.” Time and again, collaborations and friendships are formed from chapters across the country, and walking around the room during the summit really shows how this happens.

The Student Chapter Summit ended with a raffle giveaway for students. Generous donations were provided by Herbivore Clothing Co., Miyoko’s, Upton’s Naturals, We Animals, and Hurraw Lip Balm.

“This was the most inspiring event that I have ever been to, and I left knowing that I exactly what I want to do with my law degree,” Heather Sierstorpff, 3L at FAMU College of Law, said of the Student Convention. This really is the goal of every Student Convention, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund thanks the students and speakers for helping to make it such an important event to so many advocates.