A new law firm in Queensland is representing clients of a different kind - by declaring itself the first firm in Australia to practise in animal law.
The firm, TLG Lawyers, is practising in both family and animal law, and, said principal Tracy-Lynne Geysen, will look to expand over the next 12 months to include another four full-time lawyers.
Animal law is fast emerging as a legitimate area of legal practice, according to animal advocacy group Voiceless, and while law firms in the US are dedicated to animal law, no firm to date has opened in Australia to specialise in this area.
However, universities have recognised the growing trend of interest in animal law, with many now offering full courses in the field. Recently, the Federation Press published the first textbook in the field, Animal Law in Australasia.
Geysen said she was inspired by the visit of American lawyer Bruce Wagner to Australia as part of a Voiceless seminar series earlier this year. Wagner practises entirely in animal law and at the time of his Australian visit, Voiceless members were encouraging Australian lawyers to follow his lead.
"They [Voiceless] were saying somebody should be doing animal law in Australia," said Geysen. "Environmental law was scoffed at 15 years ago and today it's huge in Australia."
Steven White, the first animal law lecturer in Queensland, will become the animal law consultant at the new firm, while Donna Cooper of QUT joins as the family law consultant.
While family legal work is still keeping her busy, said Geysen, she has also been surprised by the steady stream of animal-related work she has received. She already has six animal law clients - in matters involving dogs that have been declared dangerous by councils and a woman seeking compensation for her cat that was killed by two dogs. She hopes to work with the legislative side of the animal welfare debate in the future.
Geysen was a founder of the Brisbane Lawyers Educating and Advocating for Tougher Sentences (BLEATS) - a group set up to do RSPCA-related pro bono work.
- Angela Priestley