This summer, third-year Penn State Law student Brittany Mouzourakis worked at Dykema, a major national law in Lansing, Mich. She handled projects dealing with various kinds of law — consumer finance class action defense, environmental law, utility regulation and employment law as a summer associate. She also conducted research assignments on government policies dealing with election law, labor law, charter schools and higher education. And even though she will not receive her juris doctorate until 2014, she had serious responsibilities. Her work was challenging but rewarding.
“I wrote a memorandum for our electricity cooperative clients that went out to all of their CEOs, and then I went to a board meeting where they discussed the memo I wrote,” she said. She also worked on several projects that went straight to clients.
Mouzourakis advises that every law student begin the job search early.
“We’re always told to network, and it really is very important,” she said. Mouzourakis started building her professional network as a legal intern for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and working in Michigan helped her make contacts in the Midwest, Dykema’s area of focus. Mouzourakis notes that it wasn’t necessarily about knowing who could get her the job but who could help her get her foot in the door.
Late in the summer Mouzarakis received an offer to clerk with the Hon. Bernard Friedman of the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit. She accepted and is looking forward to her fall 2014 start date.
When she isn't working toward her career, Mouzarakis pursues her scholarly interest in animal rights.
In 2011, she watched as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a lawsuit with some unusual plaintiffs: five orca whales. This fall, her comment on that groundbreaking, yet unsuccessful case — “Tilikum's Splash: Lessons Learned from Animal Rights-Based Litigation Strategies” — will appear as an article in the Michigan State University Journal of Animal Law & Natural Resources. Mouzourakis also serves as president of Penn State’s chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund and volunteers at PAWS.
In Tilikum v. SeaWorld, PETA sought the application of the 13th Amendment to animals, claiming that SeaWorld’s captivity constituted slavery. This new, extreme method of fighting for animal rights in court ultimately failed. In her comment, Mouzourakis explains why, and also why animal rights organizations like PETA ought to stick to a more traditional litigation strategy.
These efforts helped Mouzourakis win a prestigious scholarship from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). Each year, the ALDF honors promising law students with a documented interest in animal rights.
“It was a great honor to be selected,” she said. “To me, animal rights and animal law is very, very important. The fact that the ALDF recognized me was very flattering.”
But apart from passing the bar and researching animal rights, Mouzourakis does have one final goal: getting a cat. It may come as a surprise, but the animal-rights lover doesn’t own a pet.
“I like to volunteer at PAWS because it’s a good thing to do, but also because I get to play with the cats,” she said. “I’m a pseudo pet owner.”