In 2017, I completed a great employer outreach visit with Meg Damato, Grants Manager, at PAWS Chicago, which operates two no-kill animal adoption centers and is a non-profit dedicated:
- To build No Kill communities – starting with a No Kill Chicago – that respect and value the life of every cat and dog.
- To end the overpopulation of homeless animals through solutions, practices and education.
- To transform animal welfare by setting higher standards in the way animals are treated and developing a sustainable, solutions-based model
PAWS is far from a traditional public interest law non-profit. In fact, PAWS has never had a law student intern or extern before now. They are currently hosting their first law student extern through Notre Dame’s Lawyering Practice Externship and are open to potentially hosting interns in the future although not for this summer.
Meg has graciously created a unique legal externship opportunity for their first legal extern. Meg has assigned the extern the project to create a new volunteer waiver form for a new volunteer role at the organization. Meg is also having the extern create impact reports for major PAWS donors.
Meg’s career path is itself fascinating and worth reading about for anyone interested in pursuing a non-traditional career path with their law degree.
Meg earned her law degree from the University of Maryland. She went to law school knowing that she did not want to work for a law firm or take a traditional lawyer pathway. She went to law school in pursuit of a leadership role in an environmental or animal rights organization. During law school, Meg interned for the Humane Society of the United States, worked for the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland, and completed several other public interest internships. After law school, Meg moved back home to Chicago and worked in a few non-profit jobs and for Hyatt for a few years before getting involved with PAWS Chicago as a volunteer
It is a great lesson to take from Meg’s career that she volunteered for PAWS for several months before getting hired to manage their volunteer program.
When transitioning to a new city or new practice area, because of the limited availability of public interest jobs, to put yourself in the best position to get hired, volunteering is often the best option. Volunteering shows your commitment and your ability to do the job. When you lack connections in a new city, demonstrating that commitment and ability is huge.
After a few years of managing the volunteer program, Meg expressed an interest in learning more about grant writing, which involves completing applications for funding from institutions such as the government, corporations, foundations, etc. At the time that Meg expressed that interest, PAWS was about to post a job posting for a Grant Writer and decided to hire Meg to do the job. PAWS valued Meg’s institutional knowledge and as the Volunteer Program Manager, she had touched all of the areas in which PAWS is involved.
As she continued to succeed as a Grants Writer, her role has expanded to work on more advanced development initiatives such as estate planning.
In the future, PAWS will continue to have work for interns and externs to do such as reviewing and updating their contracts and waivers and researching and writing grants. If you are interested in learning more about PAWS, email me and I will be happy to put you in touch with Meg.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in animal law, volunteering for an organization like PAWS early on is essential to building your personal brand and making you competitive for such a career. The same is true for building your personal brand in any career path. Find an organization doing what you are passionate about and go volunteer!