Jessica Cohen has infused her passion for animal rights into Southwestern's curriculum and student organizations. She successfully campaigned for an Animal Law class, the first of which is being offered this semester as a 2-credit course that meets on Saturdays and is taught by Professor Sande Buhai.
"I really felt that, given the notable student interest, the dire issues facing animals, and the emergence of a formidable animal rights and animal law movement, our school should be offering a course in Animal Law," Cohen said. "It's no longer a peripheral side field. There is the prominent Animal Legal Defense Fund, the National Center for Animal Law, countless non-profits, numerous annual conferences, and many well-known legal scholars and practitioners."Cohen also established and is president of the Animal Law Society - a group dedicated to protecting animal interests through the law. In addition to its returning 50-plus members, another 17 first-year students have joined the organization. Cohen wants to bring more speakers to campus, collaborate with other Southern California law schools, and start a legal project so that students can make a substantial difference in animals' lives.
Although her father is a bankruptcy attorney, Cohen didn't think that she was going to pursue the legal profession. Born and raised in a Los Angeles neighborhood near the La Brea Tar Pits, she became interested in animal rights when she was in high school, but thought that devoting her career to the cause would steer her towards politics. She ultimately learned, however, that lawyers could fight on behalf of animals, whether as solo practitioners, counsel for non-profits, lobbyists, elected officials, or law professors. "My hope is to use the law to generate as much change (for animal welfare) as possible, whether through local ordinances, key litigation, or statutory reform," said Cohen, who has volunteered for a cat rescue organization and is "mommy" to felines Smokey and Reece. A self-taught drummer since age 14, Cohen earned a degree in Science and Technology Studies with a Law and Society minor from Cornell. She also enjoys music, hiking, reading, watching So You Think You Can Dance and being in natural places.