First Year Law Student Derek Jackson Escaped Political Turmoil in Ghana and Wants to Specialize in Appellate Litigation

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Derek Jackson
Personal Life

Derek K. A. Jackson is a first year law student at SUNY Buffalo Law School, the State University of New York (University at Buffalo Law School) and anticipates a May 2017 graduation. Although he has several areas of interest including litigation, commercial and M&A litigation, he wants to specialize in appellate litigation. Derek plans on taking the New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts Bar Exams.

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Derek was born in Ghana and he grew up in the United States. When asked about his family, he said:
"I have one brother who is an Economics professor at Northeastern and was a Ford Foundation Fellow. My sister is a director of science policy at the Infectious Diseases Society in Washington, DC. She was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow. They both graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. My sister has a PhD in molecular biology from Yale and my brother has a PhD in Economics from the University of Michigan. My father used to be Deputy UN Chief Statistician, Dean of Methodist College, and deputy governor of Ghana's Central Bank. He was also government statistician and Chairman of Ashanti Goldfields. My father obtained a PhD in Statistics from Imperial College in London. My mother worked for UNICEF and was a Budget Officer for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. She obtained a law degree and a banking degree from the University of London."
Derek was very close to his grandmother, Florence Ansah. She encouraged him to graduate from law school. Ms. Ansah would motivate her grandson by saying, "Onward ever backward never."

Derek attended Yale University and he graduated with a B.A. in English and History from Sarah Lawrence in 1994. He also earned his MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2009. Additionally, Derek has more than fifteen years of dedicated experience working as Paralegal.

Derek received the Phillips Allen Named Scholarship and the International Student Scholarship while studying at Yale University (1990). He was one of 80 students chosen out of 1300 freshmen for the Directed Studies Honors Program at Yale. He was a Yale Herald Reporter from 1989 to 1990. At Sarah Lawrence, Derek was a member of the African American Students Association (Harambe), Sarah Lawrence Student Senate, and the Sarah Lawrence Committee on Student Work (1993 to 1994). During that year, he also completed his senior honors thesis.

Since August 2014, Derek has been a member of the Management Society, Trial Advocates, Black Law Students' Association, Jewish Law Students' Association, and the Law Review Mentee at SUNY Buffalo Law School.

When asked about his internship program, he said, "I served as an intern to US District Court, EDNY. I helped draft a decision for the Judge on Fed R. Civ. Pro. 12 (b) (6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. I also served as an intern to Civil Court of the City of New York, where I drafted summary judgment decisions."

Derek is currently a member of the Yale Black Alumni Association, Association of Yale Alumni, Yale Class of '93 Alumni, Telluride Association, and the Sarah Lawrence Alumni Association.
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When Derek isn't working, he enjoys reading, writing, poetry, macroeconomics, and neuroscience. He also enjoyed reading Lincoln Caplan's Skadden: Power, Money, and the Rise of a Legal Empire. Derek is a frequent visitor of the Bollywood Bistro at SUNY Buffalo's Student Commons.

Derek's Academic Law Career and Future Aspirations

Why did Derek go into the law? "I am interested in the concept of governance by rule of law and being an appellate litigator."

He shared his aims and aspirations. "I would like to practice appellate litigation at a large law firm."

What are Derek's key accomplishments? He explained:
"My internships with 2 judges and scholarship to Yale. Being chosen by Telluride Association as one of 66 students nationwide for scholarships. I am one of 80 students chosen out of 1300 Yale freshmen for Directed Studies, Seminar on the Great Books of the Western Canon. I was accepted to Yale, Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth. I received full scholarships to UVA undergraduate, Williams College, and Cornell University. I also earned a Scholarship to UVA Law School."
He discussed his key strengths and skills that he would like to use to advance his career goals. "Strong work ethic, intellectual curiosity, writing talent, and photographic memory."

Where does Derek derive his confidence? He noted:
"From my teachers, professors and deans at Yale such as the Deputy Dean of Yale and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Joseph W. Gordon. From my family of professors and academics. Intellectual achievement and Scholarship is a strong family ethic. From my grandmother, a wonderful teacher and a very kind and special person who died 2 years ago who always had high expectations of educational attainment for me. She was a rare example of a kind and decent human being. I also derive it from the Dean of Admissions, Lillie Wiley Upshaw, and the Director of Admissions, Lindsay Sutton at University at Buffalo Law, who have been and continue to be extremely supportive and inspiring."
Derek's Mentors, Legal Role Models, Scholarship and Overcoming Obstacles, Community Service and Traveling Experience

Does Derek have mentors? "Dean Joseph W. Gordon from Yale, Henry P. Baer, Esq. from Skadden, Dean Lillie Wiley Upshaw and Lindsay Sutton from Admissions at SUNY Buffalo Law."

Does he have any legal role models? Derek stated:
"Dan Rosen, Esq., my best friend from Yale and one of the founding partners at Klein Hornig, an affordable housing law firm, Lou Fisher, my roommate from Yale who is an appellate litigation partner at Jones Day, David Boies, Esq. - I admire his photographic memory which I have also and his role in fighting for Marriage Equality. I admire the fact that he was the youngest partner at Cravath. Henry P.  Baer, the former partner-in-charge of the Labor and Employment Division at Skadden (one of the founding partners of Skadden) who has been my mentor since I worked at Skadden in 1998."
How did Derek receive two scholarships to Yale? Did he overcome any obstacles? Derek acknowledged:
"I was ranked in the top 1% at my high school class at Iona Prep, become Pres. of NHS and VP of Student Faculty Council. I got two scholarships to Yale and am now in law school. I am also an African immigrant and got 2 scholarships to Yale 5 years after arriving in the US where my family fled political turmoil in fear for our lives. My father's life was in danger as a government official. One night he was spirited to Army HQ but was returned safely. My uncle, Air Force Colonel Kofi Jackson, was sentenced to televised execution by firing squad. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment at the last minute."
Has he been involved in community service? "During the Summer of 1993 and 1994, I volunteered for the Upward Bound Tutoring and RA Bronx Manhattan Community College Summer Program. I have also worked in soup kitchens and nursing homes and tutored grammar school students in Harlem in New York City.

Where has Derek traveled? "I travelled to see my grandmother who was born in 1911 in colonial Ghana. My grandmother and I were extremely close and she always encouraged me to do well in school. I also met Prof. Shekhar Nandi in the UK, who taught with my father's older brother and told me how my uncle Daniel scored highest on the A Levels, the University Entrance Exams, in all of West Africa."
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Favorite Quote and Victory Songs

Derek's favorite quote is the Yale and Timothy Dwight Residential College fight and victory songs - "Ring the Bell" and Ashe.

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