Divergent Paths Lead to Careers in Animal Law

Ten years in the private sector.  Following Metallica across the country.  A dog named Barky.  What do these job histories, life moments, and beloved pets have in common?  They have all led to careers in the field of animal law.  

On October 28, Harvard’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund hosted a Careers in Animal Law panel, during which five successful animal lawyers discussed their jobs and how they got them.  Although their paths varied, their message to talk attendees was the same: whether graduation day or fifteen years down the road, it is never too early or too late to devote one’s legal career to protecting animals.

Daina Bray performs litigation and corporate work as General Counsel for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), an organization devoted to protecting animals across the world.  She began her legal career doing litigation and international arbitration at three large law firms over the course of ten years.  During that time she spent her pro bono hours on animal legal issues and served as vice president of the American Bar Association Animal Law Committee.  Today, she applies her experience from the private sector to the cause of animal protection full time.  One day on the job might see her analyze an indemnity provision in a contract with another organization to share supplies to help animals in a state of emergency.  

Nathan Herschler, Bray’s coworker at IFAW, took a more direct route to a career in animal law.  Inspired by an undergraduate philosophy class, after arriving at law school Herschler interned with the animal protection firm Meyer Glitzenstein, the Humane Society of the United States, and Compassion Over Killing, and had a stint as chair of the Maryland State Bar Association’s Animal Law Section.  Herschler then came to IFAW, where he is now Program Operations Director.  In this job, he plans and coordinates animal protection programs across offices around the world and allocates resources to those programs.  

Delcianna Winders, now a fellow at Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Program, went to law school specifically to help animals.  She organized animal protection events while a law student, clerked on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and then worked for Meyer Glitzenstein and the animal protection organization Farm Sanctuary, before becoming Deputy General Counsel for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for five years.  At PETA, Winders headed a team of lawyers, veterinarians, and biologists to advocate on behalf of wild animals used in entertainment.  Her job involved litigation, regulatory work, communicating with law enforcement, lobbying, media work, and consulting on campaigns.  She has also taught animal law at Tulane University Law School.    

Chris Green, Executive Director of Harvard’s Animal Law and Policy Program, took the most indirect route of all.  Green initially enrolled at HLS to study environmental law.  He grew disenchanted with the field after his first year, and spent a six-year leave of absence in the entertainment industry.  He ultimately decided forgo law school altogether to pursue his first love of being a veterinarian, until a phone call from the HLS Dean of Students inspired him to return to learn animal law under renowned animal lawyer Steven Wise.  Green returned to HLS, but before graduating, he traveled with Metallica to save up money to take two additional years off to think and write about animal issues.  His work during this period culminated in an article, The Future of Veterinary Malpractice Liability in the Care of Companion Animals.  He began finding himself invited to animal conferences to discuss his findings.  Still, Green continued to do entertainment work as his primary source of income until 2012, when he took a job as Director of Legislative Affairs at the Animal Legal Defense Fund.  Green then transitioned to Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy program in 2015.  

Lee Greenwood attributes his love of animals and his resulting foray into animal law to his dog, Barky.  Now a lobbyist for Best Friends Animal Society, Greenwood seeks to get bills passed that help shelter animals.  He uses his familiarity with the intricacies of the legislative process to ensure shelter animals’ interests are represented.  

The career paths of the five speakers were divergent and hardly linear, and in finding their current jobs, luck often played a role.  But through all the speakers’ paths run common themes.  The speakers each stressed a love of animals and a hefty amount of networking, and each praised the recent growth of the field.   

Winders then added some words of both caution and encouragement.  The odds are stacked against animals, she said, and as such animal lawyers should expect setbacks.  But it is these disappointments that make the victories so gratifying.  Winders is to thank for bans on painful bullhooks for circus elephants, relocating bears to sanctuaries from cruel roadside zoos, and challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s policy of secretly giving out permits to deal endangered animals.  If not for her determination as an animal lawyer, and the path she travelled to become one, these animals may still suffer today.    

Daniel Sondike is a second-year HLS student and a Vice President of HLS Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.

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