Many articles written by this author over the years have concluded that people should seek assistance from a “knowledgeable attorney.” Have you ever wondered whether you need a lawyer who concentrates his or her practice on equine law? This two-part series answers these questions and explains how to find the right lawyer. Part One of this series will generally discuss “equine law” and what equine lawyers do. Part Two discusses steps you can take to help find the right lawyer, regardless of whether or not you seek a lawyer who practices equine law.

What is Equine Law?
There is no set definition for “equine law.” Basically, it can be defined as the practice of law that involves all types of horses, horse activities, horse businesses, horse organizations, and horse facilities. Many attorneys with equine law practices serve individual horse owners or professionals by, for example, preparing or reviewing equine-related contracts. Other equine law practitioners handle contracts, disputes, lawsuits, and business planning for breeding farms, race tracks, insurance companies, syndications, partnerships, trainers, riding instructors, commercial haulers, horse owners, associations, veterinarians, and businesses.

A small number of lawyers across the country have law practices that include, in varying amounts, equine law. Some of these lawyers practice on their own or within firms; others can be found in “equine law departments” of a few firms located in states like Kentucky with very active horse industries.

Is an Attorney Who Practices Equine Law Better Than One Who Does Not?
Not necessarily. If you already have an attorney-client relationship, and if you and the lawyer are confident that he or she can serve you well on your equine-related matters, you need look no farther. You have found your lawyer. Sometimes, however, it might be beneficial to hire a lawyer experienced in equine law. Lawyers with equine law practices stand a better chance of being familiar with the equine-related issues for which you seek legal assistance. Also, because people in the horse industry often have emergencies, equine lawyers can be well situated to help with prompt decision-making. For example:

  • A boarding stable client might have a boarded horse, on which the stable usually has a lien, but the owner may be trying to haul it away;
  • A trainer could be faced with a colicky horse whose owner cannot be reached to consent to colic surgery; or
  • An equine professional may wonder what specific measures are necessary in order to comply with an equine liability law.

A good equine lawyer will know the applicable law and usually can provide prompt assistance in these and other demanding situations. Equine lawyers could, in some cases, save money. Lawyers who lack this expertise will almost certainly require time to research the law and learn basic horse-related terminology. In most cases, you are paying that lawyer to learn. Because “equine law” encompasses so many facets of the horse industry, not every equine lawyer can assist with all legal matters that involve horses. For example, some equine lawyers limit their practices to certain issues and segments of the horse industry, such as race horses. Other lawyers may be experts in tax issues but have little or no experience in contract drafting or litigation (going to court), or vice-versa.You will need to evaluate these factors, assess the lawyer’s experience, skills, and abilities, and decide which lawyer is right for you.

Where Can You Find a Lawyer Who Practices Equine Law?
If you seek a lawyer who has experience in equine-related law, the hardest part is usually finding one. Several organizations can help get you started such as equine organizations, your state horse council or cooperative extension service. Also, equine studies programs might have names of lawyers who teach courses in equine-related law. State or local bar associations (lawyers organizations) often keep lists of lawyers who practice in certain areas of the law, possibly including equine law.

In conclusion, keep these concepts in mind:

  • Just because a lawyer purports to practice equine law does not mean that he or she is the right lawyer for you and your legal matter. Make sure you are comfortable with the lawyer, his or her level of experience, and rates.
  • Many lawyers allow free consultations, often over the phone, to allow you and the lawyer to evaluate each other and briefly discuss your legal matter. At the end of the consultation, the lawyer can explain whether he or she is interested in handling your matter. Or, you can decide whether you want to hire the lawyer.
  • A lawyer’s affiliation (or lack of affiliation) with a law firm tells little. What matters is his or her ability, reputation, and capability of providing the type of assistance you seek at the price you are willing to pay.
  • Remember that you are the one hiring and paying for the lawyer. Therefore, be prepared to interview the lawyer. Make sure that you are comfortable with the answers you receive. Part two of this series will provide several questions and ideas to help get you started.

This article is not intended to constitute legal advice.

Julie I. Fershtman, Esq.
About the Author

Foster Swift Collins & Smith PC
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28411 Northwestern Hwy., Ste. 500
Southfield, Michigan  48034

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Finding the Right Lawyer: What is Equine Law?

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