Alice Collinson on attending the Animal Law LL.M at L ewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, U.S. Alice completed the Animal Law Masters in September 2017, following six years’ in private practice in London, as a civil litigator .
I applied to this course as the leading international programme dedicated to animal law. I’ve had an increasing interest in this field as a volunteer member of the UK Centre for Animal Law since 2013 through which I have been involved in pro bono work for charities, and most recently with a UK animal law academics forum project.
I highly recommend attending the LL.M. It provided a wealth of fascinating new information which was debated at length in small discussion groups with knowledgeable professors. It was invaluable in rapidly expanding my knowledge, and its application, whilst being fully immersed in animal protection law over an eight month period.
My module selection included ‘Animal Law Fundamentals’ which provided a detailed overview of where animals fit into various areas of law, including criminal law, probate, tort etc. As well as class discussion this foundation course involved a field trip that particularly stood out to me; a visit to a primate research centre which included discussion with resident scientists.
I also took modules entitled: Crimes Against Animals, Nonprofit Animal Law (i.e. how to run/advise an animal law charity) and Animals in Agriculture, and attended the practical Animal Law Clinic which was a great way to gain experience in exciting group projects.
There is also the opportunity for independent legal research papers along with a final thesis. The areas I covered included: captive wildlife legislation and enforcement, the growing aquaculture industry in Europe and environmental impacts, and a comparative on toxicity testing legislation in the UK, EU and the US.
I appreciated the animal law professors’ vast experience, teaching style and approachability, whilst they were also available for informal career discussions. The professors were also interested in discussing international law, particularly as I chose to focus much of my coursework on UK/EU legislation. Many of the issues addressed also overlap with wider social justice discussion such as environmental and public litigation.
During the course I interned with the U.S. Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) based in Portland, a firm of lawyers dedicated entirely to improving the legislation and enforcement of animal protection laws. This was an invaluable practical experience advocating for improved animal welfare legislation across states.
Whilst I have a particular interest in wildlife crime, my U.S. professors also helped me to arrange two concurrent internships with wildlife NGOs in Kenya – WildlifeDirect and the African Network for Animal Welfare. T hey focused on legislation and policy surrounding human/ wildlife conflict. As an experience at the conclusion of my course, this perfectly complemented and expanded upon my time at Lewis & Clark.
The law school has a very active student branch of ALDF. The group organises regular talks by key individuals in the animal law movement, film screenings, outings to farm animal sanctuaries and other activities involving a lot of tasty (and often free!) vegan food for which Portland is great for.
There are also many networking opportunities during the LL.M with students from other countries, lawyers and other professionals involved in animal welfare such as vets and those in charity work. Further, there is an international annual animal law conference, usually held in Portland.
All in all, I feel that the course and the associated internships have put me in a much better position to provide legal and/or policy advice to NGOs dedicated to the welfare of animals and the environment in the UK and elsewhere, as well as to assist in furthering the study of animal law across the UK. Portland is a great city and there is much to explore!