Clinic Stories

Clinic offers a unique level of help

Like a playful puppy that grows into a 60-pound Labrador, a School of Law project serving animal-related clients has expanded into a full-fledged clinic.

The Animal Law Pro Bono Clinic, a one- semester course being taught by Professor Kim Diana Connolly, grew out of earlier pro bono work in which students ad- dressed issues such as how municipalities should deal with free-roaming “com- munity cats” and how to prevent the abuses of dog breeding mills. “The level of commitments that we took on because of student interest in community engagement made it bigger than something I could do as a side project,” says Connolly, who is also vice dean for le- gal skills and director of clinical legal education. “There’s a lot of interest in this, a lot of great work to be done.”

As in all clinics, students will hone their practical le- gal skills both in the class- room and while serving not-for-profit clients from the local community. Importantly, Connolly says, “Students are not taking the clinic to learn cat law or horse law. They’re taking the clinic to learn how to work with clients, how to make appearances on behalf of clients in court, how to draft a model contract for a client, how to draft amendments to state law and introduce them in the Assembly. This is about learning skills and applying them to clients who work for animal welfare.”

In a carryover from students’ previous work, clinic students will continue to  work with local governments that are seeking to pass local laws dealing with “community cats” – felines that roam freely, posing some problems but also keeping rodent populations down. Those discussions spring from consideration of a model ordinance, developed by School of Law students, on how such cats should be managed.

A project will be to develop a model contract, on behalf of a local organization that finds new placements for retired thorough- bred racehorses, to ensure good outcomes from those adoptions. “Just about everyone who adopts a horse has his heart in the right place,” Connolly says.

 “There are some very bad apples, though. We’ve been asked to draft an enforceable model contract to make sure people don’t say they are going to adopt the horse for good reasons and then go off and do nefarious things.”

A further project is to help with investigations of those who have been accused of breaking animal welfare laws.

The clinic will comprise six second- and third-year students. “I was amazed at the students who were interested,” Connolly says. “In part it’s because they love animals, but in part it’s because they realize these skills they are gaining will be applicable to any area of legal practice.”