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May 11, 2022 Did You Know?

“When I Was a New Lawyer”

By Daina Bray
Daina Bray shares words of wisdom and reminisces about when she was a new lawyer.

Daina Bray shares words of wisdom and reminisces about when she was a new lawyer.

Courtesy Daina Bray

What inspired you to become a lawyer? And what did you do prior to becoming a lawyer?

From when I was a child, I have been concerned about the “underdog,” whether that was a kid in my class being bullied, an animal being abused, or ecosystems being damaged. After graduating from college, where I studied international environmental issues, I worked for a year as an environmental reviewer of projects for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). When a FEMA engineer would propose a disaster response project such as rebuilding a bridge, the project plan would come to our team to be checked for compliance with environmental laws, for example, to determine if endangered species were present or if the project was in a wetland. I was so impressed that the words of the drafters of the environmental protection laws determined whether and how the bridge would be built. Through this work, I saw first-hand the power of the law to create positive change in the world, and decided to go to law school.

How did you become involved with the ABA?

I joined as a law student and in my early years of practice relied on the ABA for continuing legal education content. The ABA really changed my life, though, seven years after I had graduated from law school. At that time, I was reconnecting with my passion for animal protection through volunteer work at my local shelter in Baton Rouge, but it had not occurred to me that I could focus my legal career on animals. I received an ABA email about a meeting of the TIPS Animal Law Committee at the 2012 Midyear Meeting in New Orleans. “Animal law,” I thought in amazement, “people do that?” I made the drive to New Orleans and never looked back, eventually serving as chair of the Animal Law Committee and—as a direct result of the animal law learning and networking opportunities available in TIPS—got my first job in the field in 2014.

What is the benefit of a new lawyer becoming active with the ABA?

The continuing legal education, writing, speaking, and networking opportunities offered by the ABA for new lawyers are unparalleled. I came to the ABA to develop my legal skills, and have stayed for that reason, but also for the friendships. Getting to know talented lawyers from all over the country and world who are committed to public service and to bettering the profession is a deeply rewarding experience.

What early career mistakes did you make and what did you learn from them?

Like many lawyers, I have perfectionist tendencies. Early in my career I did not reflect on or understand how perfectionism was damaging my quality of life and work. I felt every mistake very deeply and lived in fear of not living up to my own or others’ standards. As I have progressed in my career, I have become more aware of when I am holding myself to unreasonable standards and have worked on accepting mistakes and seeing them as a natural part of life and as the learning opportunities that they are. I also now spend time on mindfulness and on extending compassion to myself, which helps me bring my best to others and to my work.

What challenges you the most?

Choosing which projects to spend time on! I am fortunate to work in animal law, which aligns with my spirit and my longstanding desire to protect animals from what humans visit on them, but it means that I am constantly aware of many more useful animal law projects than I have time to work on. Keeping a reasonable balance of projects is a constant challenge for me.

What gives you the most satisfaction?

Being a part of professional communities is deeply meaningful for me, whether that is the community of animal lawyers or the family of TIPS. The physical separation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made me appreciate the importance of relationships with colleagues even more, and I am looking forward to being together again soon.

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Daina Bray

Senior Research Scholar

Daina Bray is a Senior Research Scholar in the Law, Ethics & Animals Program, Yale Law School.