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LIV President's Blog 2012

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Your legal calling: Considering a future in animal Law?

Your legal calling: Considering a future in animal Law?

Some of our young lawyer’s section members have expressed interest in getting involved with pro bono or volunteer work in the area of animal law. As a niche area of law, it can often be challenging to know where to begin and how to start your career in animal rights.
As legal counsel for not for profit animal protection institute, Voiceless, Ruth Hatten knows a thing or two about the personal and professional rewards of a career dedicated to animal law. Here is her story:
I’ve always wanted to use my legal education to make a difference. As animal law wasn’t available as a subject when I commenced my law degree I took matters into my own hands and taught myself about animal law. I went to seminars, conferences, met people within the animal law field and engaged in as many activities as I could.
Thankfully, times have changed and now animal law is a topic of study in Australia, with 14 law schools offering or planning to offer the subject. 
But, even, if you can’t make it to a course, a great range of material is available in print and online to help learn all you need to know about animal law. 
Opportunities to get involved
As a lawyer or law student, you have highly sought after skills that can be utilised to make a difference.  If you care about animals, and want to see change, you can use these skills for good by :

  • Assisting animal organisations with legal research, writing submissions or providing pro bono advice,
  • Writing your own submissions,
  • Working for government departments where you can make a difference from within,
  • Teaching animal law classes,
  • Starting an animal law clinic or group,
  • Doing pro bono work within an existing law practice or in your spare time.

Volunteering your skills
Pro bono and volunteer work is always very helpful and appreciated by any not for profit organisation, and Voiceless is no different.   We couldn't do everything we do without the generous assistance we get from volunteers and pro bono advisors.
Apart from the obvious benefits of contributing to a worthwhile cause, there are a variety of skillsets that can be developed through volunteering, many of which are directly transferable to legal practice. These include:

  • Setting priorities and meeting deadlines
  • Research, writing and presentation skills
  • Working within a team.

Getting started
When selecting volunteers, Voiceless[RH1]  tends to look for:

  1. experience in animal law whether via higher education or self-study;
  2. A proven passion for animals;
  3. Initiative;

Make your voice count
These days, reports of animal cruelty are becoming a common occurrence. Each week, there are reports of animal cruelty prosecutions with the common outcome being community service and a small fine. Animal cruelty is being talked about on a much greater scale than it was ten years ago yet the laws that exist to protect animals are failing again and again. 
By no means is it solely an Australian problem but some countries are leaps and bounds ahead of where we are.  Take for example Switzerland:  the Swiss Constitution requires legislation on the protection of animals and the Swiss Civil Code provides that animals are not objects.  On a more practical level, battery cages for hens were banned from 1992.  Working as a lawyer in Australia, my aim is to introduce similar standards into our own laws, advancing Australia on the global stage to be a leader in animal protection.
Where to from here?
If you would like to get involved in Voiceless or want to learn more about the current state of Australian animal law, as a first step, you could attend the Voiceless Animal Law Lecture Series which kicks off on 23 April. Every year, Voiceless invites an international speaker to present to the Australian public on matters of animal law.  With the current climate, Voiceless thought it prudent to invite a well-regarded international lawyer who could discuss the important relationship of ethics and law and whether a legal voice for animals can make a difference.  Australia has a lot to learn from countries like Switzerland and Voiceless is providing Australians with the opportunity to learn from one of the world’s most prominent animal lawyers – Antoine F. Goetschel
Antoine is a Swiss lawyer who formerly held the position of animal welfare attorney for the Canton of Zurich, charged with representing the interests of animals in criminal cases as a public official, the first position of its kind in the world.  Antoine will present the need for a unified, strong and applicable animal protection legislation to be created in every state.  These free lectures are open to lawyers, university students and the general public and will run from 23 April to 13 May.  For details and to register, please visit
Guest Blog
Submitted by Ruth Hatten
Legal counsel

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