OU Law 2L Mackenzie Coplen Works on International Human Trafficking Issues in D.C.

September 7, 2016 | By Mackenzie Coplen, 2L

When I was twelve years old I helped with a study regarding the issue of international human trafficking and it sparked something inside me. I learned about the horrific crimes that occur worldwide in human trafficking and developed a passion to join the fight that never wavered. Ever since that day I have wanted to attend law school and be part of the fight against these, as well as many other, human rights violations. Finally, this last summer I was able to do just that. I was an extern in Washington D.C. for a non-profit called Shared Hope International. I worked with the policy team which aimed to improve and progress legislation against domestic minor sex trafficking. I was immediately surrounded by people with a passion that matched mine but who also had years of experience fighting for the rights of others.

I gained experience analyzing and working with bills and statutes while updating the Protected Innocence Challenge, which is a state-by-state analysis of the sex trafficking laws under 41 components. The publication gives each state a report card with a letter grade and recommendations on how to improve their laws.

I was also given an individual research project with a topic that was new and unprecedented to the field. I had more than enough substantive work to keep me busy and even some interns to help me. Along with these experiences I went to congressional hearings about the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act that was passed by Congress over a year ago and got to see the follow-up of its implementation between Congress and the Department of Justice.  I also saw the release of the State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report” and the congressional hearing that followed. Along with all of this, the Global Slavery Index was released this summer as well, so there was never a dull moment.  It was an absolutely incredible and refreshing experience to be thrown into the epicenter of law and policy making.

Before this summer I never truly knew what non-profits did in the legal world but seeing how much impact and change they can make was extremely encouraging. They work from the ground up and are the voice between the survivors and the law makers. It can be heavy, but it is very rewarding work in the end.

Coming into law school to pursue international human rights was a slightly different path than most of my friends who were more geared toward firms, so the guidance I received steering me in the right direction made all the difference. This was only possible through the help of Professor Evelyn Aswad, the Career Development Office, Dean Scott Palk, Professor Roger Michalski and the gracious public interest fellowship awards. Everyone was more than happy to give any assistance they could and I was beyond grateful. They helped me find the perfect fit, finalize all of the documents needed to apply and help make it financially possible. In a position usually filled with D.C. law students, I was honored to be among the mix.

Shared Hope has extended my externship into the fall where I will help finish the Protected Innocence Challenge publication and my research remotely. On top of that, this term I am taking International Law Foundations, International Human Rights and Immigration Law in hopes to expand my knowledge on these important international issues. It was an incredible summer to be in our Capital amongst all of the political and international turmoil and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. The overall experience was more than I could have hoped for but everything I had been looking for. 

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