I’m planning on heading to law school, and the idea of serving my country and paying them back by applying for a commission as a Judge Advocate has crossed my mind. I’ve been looking around the various services, and I think I may be leaving towards the Marines. Any advice on this? How do other officers view Judge Advocates? I have no one to talk to on this subject, so stories and advice would be appreciated!
The first thing that came to mind was to say that you might want to talk to people who are already doing that job on active duty. They would give you a more fair idea of what goes on than a recruiter would. Recruiters have a bit of a problem with the truth. So, maybe you could go online, or whatever, to find out more before you jump in. The military isn’t for everyone. I was in the Army as a truck driver for 2 1/2 years. I didn’t mind the driving part, it was the rest of it that really sucked. Sexual harassment and all of that was going strong when I was in.
Several (many) years ago I had a friend who was a judge advocate in the Marine Corps. According to him, the Marines are a bit different than the other services in that “every Marine is a rifleman.” So even though you will eventually function as a lawyer, you first have to go through officer candidate school (or whatever the Marines call their initial officer training course) and The Basic School. Don’t know if this is still true, but back in his day judge advocates would also have to rotate through the occasional non-legal tour of duty. If I am remembering correctly, he spent a few years as an infantry officer. I’m pretty sure the Army and the Navy have direct commissioning programs for judge advocates. So unless you really want to be a Marine first and a lawyer second, you might want to consider one of the other branches. Finally, be aware that all the services are really picky when it comes to judge advocates. There are lots of law school grads out there with no jobs, and the military looks kind of attractive to many of them. You have to have good grades, a background in athletics, and a law review position can’t hurt. Also, I think both the Army and the Navy offer summer internships at their respective JAG schools for law students. Again, the competition is pretty stiff, but it sounds like a great way to get your foot in the door.
Finally, thank you for considering a career of service to our country.
I was an Army JAG officer, but not on active duty. I served on active duty as an enlisted man in the Navy and one year attached to an Air Force squadron. After that, in the Army Reserves and Guard, first in the Military Police, then commissioned as a JAG officer.
Every Officer serves in a branch. JAG officers are respected as much as any other branch.
Recruiters used to have a problem with the truth, but it’s better these days. I would see the recruiter assigned to specifically recruiting JAG officers. Personally I would avoid Navy and Marines, but only because, even as a JAG officer you might pull a tour on a ship. You’ll rarely see your family, and shipboard duty is AWFUL! At least I thought so.
I would go Army, but that’s just me. As an enlisted man, Air Force living conditions were the best.
The best part of serving with JAG is getting experience in a wide variety of legal practice areas. Good luck!
I’m a lawyer, and the son of an army drill sergeant. One of my best friends is a army JAG reservist. I’ll say this:
I have utmost respect for those who serve in the military.
That said, I echo the comments about “marines being riflemen first.”
The JAG corps may be good, or it may be bad, depending on lots of things. For example, if you plan to live and work in downtown New York City or LA, you probably will have lots of opportunities/experience that may not exist if you come from, say, a very rural background.
I confess I think it’s an odd choice that, if you want to be a lawyer, you join the military. In my experience, the JAG offers few benefits for, say, paying back loans than it would, if, say, you become an army doctor – but I am unsure of this.
To me the biggest problem with serving in the military is this: The government owns you. They need a lawyer in Kansas? You go to Kansas. They need a lawyer for the air base in Minot, North Dakota? Off you go. Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean? Same result. That’s one reason I have such respect for those who serve!
To me the biggest perk? It opens doors. Nothing, bar none, IMHO, opens doors like being an officer in the US military.
A note of levity: I know a fellow who served in the Air Force. I got this from him: What’s the difference between the Air Force and the Boy Scouts? The Boy Scouts have adult supervision!
I’ll try to be as charitable as possible here, but your goal is to be a LAWYER who surrounds him/herself with operators.
You will be at the rear, in a comfy bed, eating well prepared food, showering every day (or twice a day),and in heating/air conditioning for your entire career.
Most of the rest of the Marine Corps will spend significant time training to kill people and break their things, or actually killing people and breaking their things. They will spend significant time sleeping on the hard/frozen/hot/muddy/grassy ground being bitten by every insect known to man, eating meals prepared 3 years ago and stuffed into a pouch, showering every 3 days (unless it’s raining, then it’s a free shower), and only enjoying the heating/air conditioning when they are visiting YOU to redo their will.
Keep that in mind, and remember that as a JAG officer YOU are there to serve THEM - the guys who are at the pointy end of the spear.
Much of the info you will need you can find on JAG websites and recruitment websites, though I would suggest talking to more than one recruiter, especially anybody who may be a less knowledgeable poor little soul locked in a faroff location etc. You gotta talk to someone with real knowledge, up-to-date info, good contact with the central authority to know what the policies really are etc. Still, first of all the JAG has a different, separate recruitment programme, relying largely on so called direct commissioning, i.e. not going to normal military school but to an officer school for civil graduates.
As a law school grad you’d be on par with holders of master’s degrees, which means you wouldn’t be stuck in company grades (O1 to O3) until completion of a master’s degree as is the case with generalist line officers who typically start with a bachelor’s degree (though, on the other hand, the advantage they have is that they get to start young and climb fast, meaning they can reach army captain well before 30, even looking at major around that age). You’d also most probably be entering directly as a marine captain (O3). Then again, you’d have corresponding age and qualifications with normal line officers, so that’s hardly a freebie from the government.
Marine officers in the JAG have the unique perk of remaining normal line officers — ‘every man a rifleman’ and all. This doesn’t mean they can shuffle their tours as they like and go blow stuff up whenever office boredom hits in, but they are less debarred from that kind of thing than the rest of JAG folks who are non-line officers (which, among other things, means the JAG aren’t in the normal chain of command, can’t succeed to command despite outranking the junior line officers present, may even have to take orders from their juniors, and might actually end up commanded by junior, younger line officers on combat missions when they do end up there). In short, a marine JAG officer is closer to a double-hatting kind of capacity.
Also probably might be able more easily to make the one-time career switch into normal line service or something closer to it, and retaining their commission and rank etc., as opposed to having no other place to go than the best law firm in the world. In other words, it could be less of a one-way street for a marine officer to go JAG.
Marine JAG is part of Navy JAG; so yes, a marine officer can become the Judge Avocate General of the entire Navy.
It also seems that JAG can be an incredibly interesting career for a lawyer, as far as the words ‘incredibly interesting’ can even be used in the context of a law career. Criminal litigation, international law, what’s not to like? Even supposing you’d only be in for 20 years (till retirement becomes available), or even less, I can imagine few better starts into normal practice in a civilian law firm.
Eh, there are I days I almost wish I were American and physically fit and under 35 years of age (none of which is true except for the last condition).
Also, things may be somewhat rought if you’re female. Sexualization, sexual harassment and all. Like someone else mentioned before. Commissioned officers probably have it easier but are not immune to it.
As a member of the Air National Guard I will say this…
yeah, that is kinda true…
It’s still one of the hardest branches to get a commission in between the general size of the branch and the fact that every college grad seems to want to go into he Air Force anyway…
It isn’t unheard of for 50 plus college kids sitting for the OCT and only one slot available.
Far easier to get a commission in the Army from what I’ve heard.
Same with enlisted. The Air Force has never had any recruiting standards and there is a reason why you almost never see an Air Force recruiter at high schools or malls or whatever.
They don’t need to go find people…everyone comes to them…in droves.
They’ve never had an issue finding bodies…ever. They can even set some of the highest standards of enlistment requirements (higher ASVAB, only high school diplomas, ect.) and still never have an issue finding people to enlist.
I’ve entertained the idea of going for a commission in both the Army and Air Force but have decided to stay away.
Too many overage slots in the Air Force…especially where I’m from…and I have no intention of moving…ever.
As for the Army…they’d make me go through Basic again…I’m a mother of 3 and I’m in my early 30s…I’m all set with that.
I would strongly recommend against joining any branch of the military. I have wasted the last 11 years of my life serving under inept, immoral leaders and fighting in “wars” with tenuous moral standing to say the least. I was very naive when I joined and since then the more I’ve learned about life, the military, and our nation the more I’ve become disgusted with my life choice. Do something worthwhile with your life.
Plus, it’s very true that Military leaders are problematic at their best and totally inept and incompetent at their worst.
I’ve encountered both kinds in my 6 years.
However, it really depends on where you are stationed and which career field you go into.
Plus, one cannot disregard the immense benefits the military can provide.
My husband has a very good job in the military that more then provides for our family and gives us amazing benefits to boot.
We’ve both been able to take advantage of the college benefits the military provides and have been in the process of finishing our degrees for free.
That was huge for both of us and it’s something I can never thank the military enough…we’re able to advance our careers and provide more stability for ourselves and our children without taking on any debt.
Plus, thanks to training, deployments and military programs…we’ve been able to pay down our debts to almost nothing.
The pros and cons of service within the military tend to cancel each other out in the long run.
I can’t stand my leadership and the redundancy and bureaucracy of the military machine is enough to want to take an ice pick to my eye sometimes.
But you cannot find those benefits anywhere else.
Free college, debt repayment, outstanding health care, pensions, good pay and a leg up within the private sector…and that is just the tip of the ice berg.
For what it’s worth…I can’t get out of my contract fast enough.
I cannot be a good Catholic, a good mom and a good wife while serving in the military. Not without compromising something…whether it’s morals, time with my kids or time with my husband.
Having both my husband and I in the military has made it that much more difficult as well.
They are “family-friendly” on paper and that is it.
When I announced I was pregnant for a third time (in 5 years no less)…the looks I got were enlightening to say the least.
I’ve been labeled as a failure to train because, well, I just keep getting pregnant. :shrug:
However, for some people the military is good and worth it.
My husband is good at being in the military and is a good Catholic as well.