2013 Forty Under 40: Michele Jackson

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Her commitments will continue to include the Global Orphan Foundation (which she founded as the Fatherless Foundation), the Cancer Support Community and the schools she and her husband went to or schools their children attend.

Age: 37

Founder/Partner, Harden Jackson Law LLC

President, MLJ Adoptions

Michele Jackson splits her week between her Harden Jackson Law LLC firm, where she handles domestic adoptions and reproductive law cases, and MLJ Adoptions, where she specializes in the sometimes exhilarating, sometimes heartbreaking world of international adoption. She’s seen children die of starvation before they could be adopted and kids get adopted just in time and eventually thrive.

Jackson always wanted to work in law in some capacity. But it was a project she completed at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law at IUPUI that steered the direction of her career and life.

In the summer of 1999, she worked in Ottawa, Canada, for a not-for-profit working against exploitation of women and children. She researched how children were brought into pornography and prostitution rings and what countries were doing about it. She saw children who weren’t wanted—an experience that got her thinking that international adoption would be one solution to the problem.

Jackson decided then she was going to work in the adoption field, then discovered there weren’t any jobs. So after graduating and negotiating for a job with a law firm, she told them she’d take less money in exchange for more flexibility to build up this kind of practice.

Over the next decade, she went from private practice working with agencies doing independent international adoptions and domestic adoptions to creating a full agency of her own.

She’s now completed more than 500 international adoptions and has 25 domestic employees and 20 international employees.

“I didn’t expect I’d be managing people,” she said. “But every day, I just look at the big picture of what’s happening, even if I’m just doing business contracts, and how that’s helping put children in families forever that otherwise—especially in my Africa program—would starve to death. For those kids, it’s making all the difference in their lives.”

And Jackson doesn’t just help others. In addition to her three stepdaughters, she and her husband have guardianship of a girl from Nicaragua and have adopted two boys from the Congo.•


  • Marcus A. York
    It's great seeing such an awesome woman doing such inspiring work!! Remembering your energy and sweetness from our college days. God bless you Michele! Best~ Marcus
  • Congratulations!
    You have an amazing and ambitious heart. Your great work has helped many. Congratulations!
  • Thank you Michelle
    My family has been blessed by having Michelle in our lives. She worked so hard so that my parents could adopt two precious baby girls from Vietnam. These energetic, sweet girls are now 6 years old. And to think that they could instead be in an orphanage or on the streets of Vietnam if not for Michelle and others like her who have a passion for helping orphans. Reagan and Riley love Michelle!

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