When Samantha Franks, ’21, heads to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg next month, she’ll serve as a judicial clerk in the highest court of the European Union (EU).
She’ll also be one of the few Americans to hold the position.
Franks secured the three-month clerkship through the Dean Acheson Legal Stage Program, which is organized through the US Embassy in Luxembourg and offers clerkships to a limited number of students and alumni from select US law schools.
“The fellowship was established to try and expand US-EU relations and encourage a greater understanding of law,” said Franks. “It’s a good fit because when I was at Michigan, I did quite a bit in the international law space.”
She will leverage her work at Michigan Law as well as her work as an associate in the international trade group of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in Washington, DC, where she has worked since graduation.
Deep Dive on Scholarship
Coming from a Big Law firm, Franks is looking forward to gaining experience as a judicial clerk. Because her background and aspirations are in international and comparative law, she said it made sense to serve on the EU court rather than a US court. Specifically, she’ll work with an advocate general, who writes legal opinions on cases before the court for the judges to consider.
“It’s exciting because it means I get to be part of the deep dive on scholarship of pending cases,” said Franks.
She’s also eager to hear cases in the lead up to the EU’s Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence, which takes effect in 2024. Among the provisions of the directive are anti-forced-labor rules. Her background in this area includes work with the Human Trafficking Institute, where she does pro bono work.
“Individual states are starting to have forced-labor laws. So it’s possible that you could see a dispute between states about how those laws are implemented,” Franks said. “My current work involves figuring out where in the supply chain there could be forced labor. The EU law is really innovative, and it’s different from what we’ve got in the US, what Canada is looking at, what the UK is looking at.”
Fighting Forced Labor
Franks also is interested in cases involving sanctions, which relates to the work she has done at her firm. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, she has spent a large part of her practice helping companies deal with sanctions programs.
“The two big categories that my work tends to fall into are sanctions and export controls,” she said. “I work with companies to navigate when their customers are sanctioned and when individual governments are sanctioned, to ensure that they’re doing due diligence within their own company.”
Franks also works with companies on export and import controls to determine where they're allowed to send their goods and what restrictions might exist, which sometimes involves forced-labor issues.
“Forced labor can lead to companies being sanctioned, or it can lead to the government saying, ‘No, you can’t do business with them on an export or import level.’”
Since the US imposed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act last summer—a law related to imports from the Xinjiang region of China—she has done quite a bit of work with companies trying to make sure that nothing in their supply chain is from that region.
All of this work is part of Franks’ career goal of making a mark in international law. “A big part of why I wanted to do this clerkship is not only because I think it’s very interesting, but I really want to be good in this space—and to do good.”