A Lifetime of Service
Former intelligence officer Jane Francis continues to defend the Constitution
Published in 2020 Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers magazine
By Jessica Vaughn Martin on November 16, 2020
When Jane Francis departed the United States Air Force in 1994, she exchanged her rank insignia—first for time at home with her children, and then 12 years later for an attorney’s license. Though this may seem like a tremendous career shift, her goal of protecting her country, she says, remained the same.
“I have the same job now that I had when I was in the Air Force,” says the former intelligence officer. “My job is to support and defend the Constitution. I use a completely different method, but that’s what I do.”
When she originally signed up for the Air Force, it simply represented the opportunity for new experiences. “I grew up in rural Illinois, and I really kind of wanted an adventure,” Francis says. “I learned about the Air Force Academy and I thought about being around the planes and getting to travel around the world. As a 16- or 17-year-old, that sounded like a great life. It felt like an extraordinary thing to do.”
After graduating from the Air Force Academy, Francis was stationed in Virginia before deploying to the Middle East for three months early in 1992, after the Persian Gulf War. Her duties as an intelligence officer included watching for threats in other areas of the world, as well as evaluating the veracity of intelligence by putting pieces together from different sources.
Francis embraced the transformative experiences military life presented. “It was fascinating to see a completely different culture, and it was fascinating work,” she says. “I was very young, 22 or 23, but the military gives you great responsibility at young ages. [In Virginia] I got to interact with, and brief, the high-ranking folks on regular occasions. Sometimes, I got to stand in the back of the room, and I’d try to be quiet as they were talking, because you could hear these people making decisions about how we were going to move forward with the war. It’s incredible to be up close to that and see that firsthand.”
The Air Force taught Francis to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, and that it’s more than just the individual that matters. She applied those lessons to her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer—a goal she took on when her own children were in elementary school. “My mother sent me my ACT forms, and Air Force and lawyer were the things on my [career] list,” she says. “You just grow up and think, ‘Well that’s just not going to happen.’”
But when an opportunity to move to Whiteman Air Force Base for her husband’s job meant law school was within reach—and driving distance—Francis went for it.
Since graduating from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law in 2011, she has offered free legal aid to veterans, most recently through the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Foundation’s military assistance program. “It’s nice to be able to talk to them about their service and relate,” she says. “There’s unique language in any career field; I think that makes it a fun connection. It just starts us out on a different foot than [with] a non-veteran; we have that common background. [Military service] is a transformative thing—good or bad—for everybody.”
Beyond providing vital assistance with legal matters, Francis finds the attorney-client rapport the most rewarding part of her pro-bono work. And though the services are provided free of charge, her clients often find a way to express their sincere thanks. “One veteran brought me pears,” she says. “[Clients] feel like I’m doing something for them, and I feel like they’re doing something for me.
“It’s one of those things where we each feel like we’re the lucky one. There are so many people in need, and you just can’t help them all. But what draws me [to veterans] is I think these folks deserve a little thank you. And it’s nice to be able to say thank you to them.”
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