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Skills and education for animal lawyers

Updated: Mar 16






Familiarity with different types of law 

In animal law, knowing various types of laws is incredibly important. It equips you to handle a wide range of situations involving animals. For example, you can use consumer laws to stop unethical puppy sellers or environmental laws to safeguard natural habitats for wild animals. This demonstrates how a diverse legal understanding can be a powerful tool for helping animals. It allows you to employ various legal strategies to benefit animals in ways that might not be immediately apparent, significantly impacting their well-being and environments. This knowledge isn't only beneficial for understanding animal law but also provides you with alternative career options. 





Alice’s Take:

Legal Skills 

Alice stresses how important it is for lawyers, especially those wanting to work in animal law, to have strong basic legal skills. She thinks that being really good in general law helps you do well in animal law too. According to her, knowing the core principles of law inside and out is what makes a lawyer able to handle the tricky parts of animal law better. She suggests that lawyers should focus on getting better at these basic skills to make a big difference in protecting animals. For Alice, being specialised in animal law is great, but the real game-changer is being a great lawyer. She believes this solid foundation helps you become more effective in fighting for animal rights.



Strong legal research and writing 

To succeed in animal law, it's crucial to be really good at legal research and writing. You should know how to search through big legal databases, understand past legal cases, and keep up-to-date with the latest changes in the law. It's also important to be able to explain what you find clearly and convincingly in writing. In animal law, where advocacy is important, explaining complex legal ideas in a way that people can understand can greatly impact court cases and convince the public.


Being analytical

To succeed in areas like animal law, you must be a sharp thinker. You should be good at looking closely at legal rules, past cases, and complicated legal situations. An analytical lawyer can break down arguments, predict what the other side might say, and build strong, logical cases. This skill is important because many cases might involve new ways of understanding the law or situations that haven't been dealt with before.


Networking 

Your journey in animal law will be rich in making connections. Remaining open to different opportunities and networking is important. In the animal law field, you’ll find a community of people who genuinely care and are eager to support each other. It's a field where competition takes a backseat to collaboration and mentorship.  


Communication 

Being able to communicate well with your clients is extremely important, especially when working on animal-related cases. Some people are emotionally attached to their cases, so you must be patient and understanding. These qualities help you navigate through their feelings while providing them with good legal advice and support.


Genuinely enjoying litigation

If you're thinking about litigating in animal law, it's really important to genuinely enjoy it. Litigation isn't just about going to court; it also involves planning legal actions, negotiating deals, and sometimes dealing with tough challenges in court. You need to like this process for long-term job satisfaction because animal law is closely connected to emotions and morals. Being passionate about it helps keep you motivated, even when you face legal setbacks.  


Mental resilience 

Working in animal law often means seeing distressing situations where animals are harmed. To be effective in this profession, you must develop solid mental resilience. This means being able to process and come to terms with what you see to continue to work productively. It's also important to have access to resources and support systems to help cope with the emotional impact of these experiences. Without these coping mechanisms, constant exposure to such traumatic content could lead to mental health issues like burnout, depression, and anxiety. Therefore, emotional strength and managing difficult emotions are key skills for success in animal law.


Animal Law Challenge 


A common challenge faced by animal law professionals, including Taylor, Alene, Edie, Sabina, Shreya and Camille, is the emotional toll of their work. Alene has to handle the difficult task of balancing her feelings while fighting legal battles, especially in cases related to animal cruelty. Taylor also finds it emotionally hard when she represents cases involving animals and their owners. She often brings the stress and emotional weight of these cases home with her. Edie sees a lot of animal cruelty and gets frustrated because sometimes she can't do much to stop it. Sabina and Camille, too, see firsthand how animals suffer in upsetting videos that they have to analyse in detail for legal purposes. 


All share the burden of dealing with these emotionally charged and distressing situations. They must handle their emotions carefully to stay professional and effective in their legal work. This emotional aspect makes their jobs in animal law more complicated, and they need to find ways to deal with these emotions to avoid burnout and keep working passionately for animal welfare.


Choosing the right law school

Choosing the right law school is important. Only a few law schools have indeed dedicated animal law programs. While it would be great to attend a school with such a program, and you should do that if you have the opportunity, that's likely not possible. Instead, a good strategy is to look for universities open to animal law as a field of study. This could mean they offer extracurricular activities related to animal law or have professors specialising in this area. These elements can provide valuable support and opportunities even if the school doesn’t have a full animal law program. Essentially, you want to find a law school that’s receptive to the topic and offers ways to engage with animal law, even if it’s not their main focus.


If your school doesn't have a dedicated animal law program, consider starting a student animal legal defence group or pushing to introduce animal law courses. This looks good on your resume, makes a big difference in the field, and helps you grow personally.


Making Opportunities Wherever You Are

In a career in animal law, you often need to make your own choices. One way to gain experience is by doing pro bono work, which means you provide free legal services. Getting involved in animal law cases through programs like the Animal Legal Defense Fund's pro bono program is a practical way to learn without taking big risks. This can be especially helpful where animal law isn't a common practice area, as it lets you learn by doing and make a meaningful contribution to the field.



Shreya’s Take: 

Legal Research in India 

As a researcher in India, Shreya mentioned that there aren't specialised Master of Law (LLM) programs specifically focused on animal law, as they have in the United States and Spain. She suggested that if you're interested in getting an animal law degree, you might consider taking an online program or even travelling abroad for your education. Another promising route is to take up allied fields of study and cultivate interdisciplinary skills or intersectional perspectives to bring a wide range of legal and policy expertise into effective animal advocacy.


Shreya also recommended seeking mentorship and connecting with other animal lawyers and advocates in India through platforms like LinkedIn and participating in online and in-person events to collaborate and share knowledge.



Camille’s Take:

Animal Law Professor 

Camille advises that if you're interested in pursuing animal law, finding the right professor at a university is key. Since there are limited animal law programs, your focus should be on universities with professors specialising in this field. These professors can be a vital resource, offering insights, guidance, and connections to the wider animal law community. They can also help guide your studies towards animal law-related topics, even if the university doesn't have a full animal law program. Essentially, look for a law school where at least one faculty member has a keen interest or expertise in animal law. This can significantly impact your education and career path in animal law.



Sabina’s Take: 

Undergraduate Thesis 

Sabina went to law school in Chile, thinking she would have a steady job as a lawyer. However, while working on her thesis, she learned that she cared about animal law. She decided to study animal cruelty laws in the U.K. that went back 200 years! This work showed her she was into helping animals and changing laws to protect them. Sabina's example shows it's important to find opportunities that allow you to try different things while at university. Even when it doesn't have animal law courses, you can learn about the topic through other ways, like special projects, choosing different classes, or joining clubs. 











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