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Important Dates

Fall Semester Begins

August 12th, 2024


Fall Application Deadline

May 19th, 2024

From Student to Professor: How Lewis & Clark’s Animal Law LLM Launched a Career in Academia

In a recent live webinar, Animal Law LLM alum and Adjunct Professor, Rebecca Critser, Dr. Rajesh K. Reddy, Director of the Animal Law Program, and Megan Senatori, Associate Director of the Center for Animal Law Studies, discussed ways in which students can use their advanced degrees in animal law to make an impact for animals. 

Rebecca shared her own experiences in the program, including how her work in one of our courses led to the publication of a recent law journal article critically examining a zoo’s claim that it was supporting wild animal conservation. She also shared her journey from LLM alumni to Adjunct Professor at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School, where she teaches two courses in our online advanced degree program: The Law & Ethics of Animal Testing, co-taught with Dr. Paul Locke, and Animal Legal Philosophy.

Choosing to Pursue an LLM at Lewis & Clark

Rebecca discovered Lewis and Clark while searching for a program that would provide her with the practical expertise to bolster her job applications in the field of animal law. “Lo and behold, there was an entire program really designed to provide that experience and expertise.” She also notes that a large part of why she decided to apply to the program was due to the support and positive interactions she had with Dr. Reddy throughout the application process. “I think one thing you will find about the program is that the faculty and staff are very kind and very much there for the students, both when you go through the program as well as after you graduate.” 

This community amongst your peers is a unique opportunity to get to know like-minded people in your field who share the ultimate goal of helping animals. “They are really good at providing a community of alumni to bring together and support their careers,” Rebecca enthuses. 

Becoming an Animal Law Professor

When she graduated from Lewis & Clark, Rebecca knew she wanted to work towards becoming a full-time professor teaching animal law. “I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone to Lewis & Clark and gotten my Animal Law LLM,” she says. Now, looking back, she discusses a couple of different pathways that students could take upon their own L&C graduation if they also want to teach.

One pathway to teaching animal law is pursuing a full professorship that is not specific to animal law. Aspiring academics can apply to schools with open faculty positions. This isn’t an easy path, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort.  Rebecca shared that it is possible to incorporate animal law into any legal class – even if one is not specifically an animal law class. Another option is to guest lecture about animal law. Maybe eventually, it would be possible to develop and teach an animal law course. 

Then there is the more direct route: looking for openings at schools specifically for animal law. “You might find that it takes longer,” Rebecca warns, “but it’s certainly worth looking for those opportunities.” Fortunately, more and more schools are interested in offering one or more animal law courses. 

The third option is adjunct teaching, the path that Rebecca herself is currently on. Most adjunct professors also have full-time jobs as an adjunct professor typically teaches only a course or two. Rebecca’s full-time job is currently as a postdoctoral fellow on Dr. Paul Locke’s team at Johns Hopkins University. They primarily advocate at the federal level for alternatives to the use of animals in science and research. Lobbying, outreach, and strategy are all part of her work. 

Rebecca says that it is important to be mindful of the time commitments doing both, but it provides the opportunity to confirm that you want to teach and to learn what it’s like to work with students. It also provides practical teaching experience. “As someone who desires to teach full time, I have been warned against adjunct teaching because some schools are resistant to making adjunct professors full professors. But in the niche field of animal law, I’ve found it far more beneficial than detrimental to my career,” notes Rebecca.

Course: The Law and Ethics of Animal Testing

Rebecca is co-teaching The Law and Ethics of Animal Testing with Dr. Paul Locke. She not only took the course as a student but has also served as a teaching assistant for it for the past 2 years. The two professors have worked hard to revise and update the course. “We see this course as an opportunity to get hands-on experience and knowledge about animals, research, and science, really grappling with the tensions in this space,” Rebecca says. She cautions that if we were to remove all animals from testing labs tomorrow, we have to think through the consequences – such as slowing down the development of life-saving drugs or devices. The course provides students with the ethical framework to think about how to balance those interests and competing values. 

Course: Animal Legal Philosophy

The other course that Rebecca will be teaching is Animal Legal Philosophy. Rebecca plans to instruct students with a rights-focused lens. Many lawyers can get away with a more common, baseline understanding of what rights are and are not, but in the animal law space, where we are actively advocating for animal rights, it’s important to have a more in-depth understanding of what “rights” really means. So this course will take a look at three phases: how these rights come about; the legal tools available to push rights forward; and which rights. It all comes down to thinking about the future of these animals. 

Your Work at Lewis & Clark Can Have Far-Reaching Impact

Rebecca recently published an article titled “Conservation Advocacy or Marketing Smokescreen? An In-Depth Review of the Financial Records of the Indianapolis Zoo’s Claim That It Supports Wild Animal Conservation.” The article was the product of work that began while she was at Lewis & Clark as an LLM student. She was inspired by a course she was taking called Emerging Topics in Animal Law with Dr. Reddy, in which students dealt with a different “hot topic” in animal law every week.

The assignment was to write a blog article, and one week, the focus was on zoos. Rebecca set out to analyze the institution’s claims of supporting wild animal conservation by detailing what percentage of the zoo’s budget actually went towards such activism. The zoo fell around or below 1 percent. Is that number sufficient to support their claim? Rebecca posited questions but left readers to form their own opinions. The answer, for many, will likely be “no.”

Careers After Lewis & Clark

Rebecca is a perfect example of a Lewis & Clark alum who went on to use her degree to champion animal rights. But she isn’t the only one. CALS is proud of their 90+ advanced degree animal law alumni who hail from 28+ countries. As examples, Megan Senatori highlights 5 additional alumni in action as examples who can serve as inspiration for current and prospective students:

  • Tara Cooley, LLM ‘21, U.S.: Animal Law Teaching Fellow at University of Connecticut Law School, Tara trains and mentors law students who serve as Courtroom Animal Advocates under Desmond’s Law. She works to further expand the implementation of Courtroom Animal Advocate Programs (CAAPs) throughout the U.S.
  • Hira Jaleel, LLM ‘20, Pakistan: Teaching Fellow and Adjunct Professor at CALS, Hira teaches Aquatic Animal Law and co-teaches Food Law. She designed and taught Pakistan’s first ever animal law course at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.
  • Diego Plaza, LLM ‘20, Chile: Founder of the Center for Chilean Animal Law Studies (CEDA Chile), and the Interspecies Justice Foundation, Diego also recently created a specialized, tuition-free course in Chilean animal law. He is an author and academic contributor of Dossier of Animal Studies with works from 18 authors from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Spain, and more.
  • Ever Vimbai Chinoda, LLM ‘17, Zimbabwe: Founder and Co-director Speak Out for Animals (SOFA), Ever created and teaches the first wildlife course in Zimbabwe at the Great Zimbabwe University. She facilitated the training of 20 lawyers and 60 prosecutors on animal laws.
  • Anna Birgitta Wahlberg, MSL ‘23, Finland: University lecturer in public law at the Abo Akademi University in Finland, Anna published the nation’s first textbook for animal law. She is leading a collaborative effort to create fundamental rights for animals in the Finnish Constitution. 

You can join CALS in its mission to protect, advocate for, and advance the interests of animals by enrolling at Lewis & Clark. For more information on the programs, courses, and application process, please visit our website. The deadline to apply for the fall semester at Lewis & Clark’s Online Animal Law program is May 19, 2024.

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