For the Global Good



By Kayla Molander
John "Zack" Pacer (B.S. BA ’21, LAW ’24)

“I think that everybody goes into law school with that idea that they want to make a difference,” says John “Zack” Pacer (BA ’21, LAW ’24). “Through whatever path you take, you make a difference in people’s lives. I just believe in global prosperity.”

Armed with a J.D. and a certificate in international and comparative law from Chicago-Kent College of Law, Pacer will soon begin working as a member of the United States Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

As a judge advocate, Pacer hopes to work on cases involving international trade, including maritime and shipping trade.

“I am really looking forward to furthering our nation’s interests both domestically and internationally,” he says. “I believe that it’s my duty as an American to be able to do my best to better our country and help support the men and women of our armed forces.”

Pacer is a two-time Illinois Institute of Technology graduate. He completed his business administration undergraduate degree in 2021 and continued straight into his law study that fall.

Even as a law student, Pacer continued to play baseball for Illinois Tech. Trying to balance his baseball activities with his law studies turned into a learning experience in time management.

“I definitely underestimated how hard law school was,” he says. “I thought it would be very similar to my time in undergrad, where I could easily manage the needs of school and athletics.”

At the end of his first year of law school, Pacer was struggling. He wasn’t sure law school was the place for him.

In addition to the rigors of his athletic schedule, his first-year law courses weren’t as exciting as he had hoped. But he stuck it out for one more course in business organizations over the summer with Professor of Law Felice Batlan, and loved it.

“I did extremely well in her class and had some really nice conversations with her where she encouraged me, saying just because I didn’t do well previously, it’s not the end of the world,” he says.

The words of encouragement from Batlan—who Pacer remembers saying, “whatever you do, you’re going to never regret getting this degree and you’re never going to regret going through what you just did”—helped to push him through the hardship.

Newly invigorated, he walked into Assistant Professor of Law Adam Weber’s course on international law. There, he learned about legal systems in other countries and global relations, and it all just clicked.

“I’m very proud to say that since then I’ve done much better,” Pacer says. “I made the dean’s list a couple times and earned a couple of awards (for having the highest grade in a course), and it was because of those teachers who showed support.

“I don’t think that I would have necessarily believed in my ability to do those things if I didn’t have the faculty and staff who were in my corner, who every day wanted to know how I was doing and what they can do to make the experience better. You really can’t buy the community feeling of a smaller law school.”

Freed from his athletic obligations, Pacer spent his final two years of law school trying everything that he possibly could, narrowing down what he really wanted to do. He joined the Sports and Entertainment Law Society, acted as teaching assistant to the Business Organizations course twice, and landed multiple opportunities outside of the law school.

The summer after his first year of law school, Pacer worked as a summer law clerk at boutique corporate litigation firm Dahl & Bonadies. The next summer he participated in 14 bench trials with his 711 law license for the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office.

“I was second chair for 13 of them,” he says, “then on my 14th, I was able to do it myself—with supervisors standing next to me—but I acted as first chair.”

Pacer externed for Judge Anthony Kyriakopoulos in Cook County’s chancery division, processing liens and foreclosures, as well as working in-house for a medical device supply company, Arjo, Inc., twice a week.

One of his favorite experiences while he was at Arjo, Inc. was being asked for his input by the company’s chief financial officer.

“I was 24 years old at the time being asked by a CFO of an international company what I think their timekeeping process should be,” he says. “I guess that’s what it’s like to be a lawyer.”

After such a wide range of experiences, Pacer is confident that international law is where his future lies.

“If I could eventually end up being a chief prosecutor in the United Nations,” he says, “that would be the dream.”