Getting Hands-On to Help

Jackson Frank '24

Jackson Frank '24

Jackson Frank '24  spent a semester working at the United Nation’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, Netherlands. Chicago-Kent College of Law supported him every step of the way.

Jackson Frank
LAW '24

Jackson Frank ’24 has never cared much for sitting at a desk in a classroom.

“After my first internship where I worked with the United States Department of Homeland Security and observed court almost every day and sometimes multiple times a day, I went back to classes and felt bored,” he says.  “I wanted to start working then.”

Luckily, Chicago-Kent College of Law had plenty of opportunities to keep his mind stimulated.

“I began working in the immigration clinic,” he says. “I worked with a supervising attorney, Professor Carmona, and eventually started having my meeting with our client where my professor helped, and my experience peaked when I spoke on the record before a judge representing our client.”

But Frank wanted even more.

With the assistance of Adam Weber, Frank landed an internship at the United Nation’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) in The Hague, Netherlands.

Weber spent nearly a decade working as a prosecutor at the IRMCT, and some of his former colleagues and interns still work there—and one of Weber’s interns served as Frank’s supervisor.

Frank spent the entire 2023 fall semester in The Hague, helping with cases old and new. He attended the final hearing for Félicien Kabuga, who was accused of being the main financier of the Rwandan genocide. Kabuga was declared unfit for trial due to dementia.

He also was present at the International Court of Justice on the opening and closing days of Ukraine v. Russian Federation: 32 States Intervening in which Ukraine accused Russia of genocide in the war that started on February 2, 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

“It was at the International Court of Justice housed within the Peace Palace. Russia attempted an affirmative defense to accusations of genocide, which is as bewildering as it sounds and was complex, confusing, and incoherent,” he says. “I also saw the last day where Ukraine offered its closing remarks, headlined by Harold Koh.”

Frank’s internship wasn’t just days in court on high-profile cases. He spent much of his time preparing dossiers and evidence packets for foreign national prosecutors.

“Being in the Netherlands for a semester had remarkable moments,” he says. “Living in a city that serves as the world’s epicenter of international law, with a remarkable group of friends, and serving in an internship trying to offer justice in the aftermath of war crimes and genocide while seeing the comparable forms of violence in Ukraine and Gaza, has left me with immense feelings of gratitude and humility.”

Chicago-Kent didn’t have a program in place to support Frank during his semester abroad, so he was able to create his own externship course.

He completed an independent research seminar credit based on the experience.

“I wrote about the standard for an accused having the necessary mental fitness to stand trial in international military tribunals. There is a lack of procedure and precedent,” he says. “[The Kabuga] case was closing at the Mechanism, and I was able to attend. That was the focus of my paper. I was able to talk with the legal officers prosecuting the case that I was writing about.”

Before spending time at The Hague, Frank had an interest in international law.

He’s the co-founder and co-president of Chicago-Kent’s International Law Student Association. All students are welcome to join the club, which specifically focuses on international law certificate and international LL.M. students.

Frank will graduate with the international law certificate in May.

“Many of the LLM students are successful lawyers in their home countries who come for one or two semesters, looking to gain a master’s degree and some time in the United States,” Frank says. “A goal when creating this club was to create an environment where those coming from other countries could have opportunities that may offer events or direction to help them learn Chicago and meet other students.”

Frank also met many international law students during his U.N. internship.

“All of my coworkers, really my friends, were from around the world: Tanzania, Italy, Switzerland, China, France, Ireland, South Africa, Spain, Germany, South Korea, and more,” he says. “We had American interns from Washington University, UCLA, Temple, and Columbia Law. Even when I felt numb and gray and homesick and awful, my friends sometimes felt the same and helped me through those moments. The feeling of togetherness in our shared experiences is something that helped me feel better.”

Frank puts importance on the people he’s met and the relationships he’s built during his law school experience.

“At the surface level, Chicago-Kent is in a great city. It has all the things on the front page of the website,” he says. “But it also has good people.

“This school is for people who want to be skilled attorneys, who want to be competent and prepared—and that are willing and able to help.”

Frank hopes to continue to be able help those who cannot help themselves.

“I came to law school wanting to advocate for people who did not have a voice,” he says. “Working on behalf of survivors and victims of genocide allowed me to see my goal come to fruition. My legal experiences so far have included the legal fields of in-house, immigration, landlord-tenant, and now genocide (international criminal law/human rights).”

Frank has accepted a job with the Peoria County State’s Attorney Office and looks forward to his chance to see a lot of courtroom time, but he also sees an avenue for many other long-term options.

“I would love to find myself in an office similar to what I was in during my time in The Hague where I can be advocating for victims and survivors of mass atrocities,” he says.

His current externship has him working remotely for a legal design studio in Paris. He has focused on taking legislation and contracts and rewriting or summarizing in plain language that can make it easier for those without a legal education to understand.

“Growing up with a mom and sister with Autistic neurology, I learned to communicate a bit differently to make their experience easier. Rather than using elaborate and flowery language, speaking directly and plainly was beneficial. Now, I am using those skills for our clients. It’s sort of like The Karate Kid. ‘Translating’ legal jargon into both plain language, but also words that work across our clients’ different cultures, has helped me strengthen my understanding of both law and language. You don’t understand something until you can explain it to someone else.”

When Frank was accepted to Chicago-Kent, he had already placed his deposit at another law school. He ultimately decided to enroll at Chicago-Kent.

It’s a decision he’s never regretted.

“Chicago-Kent prepares students well,” he says. “The number of opportunities and experiential learning opportunities that Chicago-Kent offers has benefited me more than I imagined.”

More Stories