« on: April 08, 2004, 01:59:27 AM »
I'm looking into JAG myself and have been well-acquainted with the process, etc.
There aren't many tuition benefits by joining up during law school. The Army is the only branch that accepts law students into ROTC, and you have to go to a school with or promixmate to an Army ROTC Unit. Most civilians, however, get into Army JAG via Direct Commission.
The Air Force has a program to which you apply during your first year. If accepted, you go to summer training after 1L and 2L, then you are guaranteed a slot in the Air Force JAG. Other than summer training, there is no drill or anytihng like that during the school year. Again, no substantial tuition benefits. AF also accepts JAGs via direct commission.
The Navy and Coast Guard, to my knowledge, only take civilians via direct commissions, i.e., you interview and apply for a commission just as you would apply for an associate's position at a civilian law firm. This happens during 3L year.
The Marines, contrary to public belief, have their own JAGs, but their process is different. The Corps mentality is that you have to be a Marine like the rest of the Corps, so they make you go to Officer Candidate School in Quantico for two summers (5 wks. a hit) or for one 11 week summer. After you grad. from law school and become commissioned, you go to a 6 (I think) month gig called The Basic School, where you learn tactics and such, right alongside the Infantry Officers.
Commissions last between 3-4 years. If you stay in past the first 3-4 years, they help with loan repayments. You get credit for the time you spend in training during school, which counts when it comes time for retirement and promotions (if you stay in) You're also commissioned as a first lieutenant(Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Navy/CG) and all branches JAGs seem to expereince a rapid promotion to Captain (Full Lieutenant in the Navy/CG) Usually, as a staff officer, you are partially immune to the doggedness a lot of junior officers experience.
Assignments are worldwide. Usually, each installation has a Staff Judge Advocate. I think every command has one as well. This means if you join Navy JAG, and you get a billet on a carrier group, its ships ahoy for six months on an aircraft carrier or destroyer. If you get assigned to a Marine Expeditionary Unit, you get to be on a ship AND travel with the Marines if they get deployed in combat. There are JAGs right now in Iraq. Even though they're non-combatants, they are still in harm's way sometimes.
As a new Judge Advocate,your time is spent arguing both sides of mostly criminal trials and doing small firm work for servicepersons and their families--wills, contract disputes, custody battles. As you get noticed/get good/get promoted, you could potentially move into specialized litigation and stuff like international law, but civilian attorneys--employed by DoD--do a lot of that stuff.
The services-except the Marines-- all offer internships during the summer.
Once you get commissioned, the Services all take their new JAGs and put 'em through watered down basic training periods-- 4 to 6 weeks, then 2-8 months of legal training. The Marines are the only ones that don't-they make you go to full blown Officer's Boot Camp instead. After that, if you stay on, they pay for LL M's (The army JAG school on UVA's campus is ABA accredited and awards LLMs) and I have heard that its easy for JAG's to crossover to GS positions (AUSA, Staff Counsel at State, Energy, etc.) I dunno about that one for sure, though.
I got fed a bad beef by a recruiter in high school and started out college as a scholarship ROT-C mid. While its possible for ROTC folks and Academy grads to go straight from ugrad to law, you gotta be shithot--good grades, LSAT, the works. After a year, when my buddies all wanted to drive ships and fly jetplanes and I still wanted to be a lawyer, I dropped my scholarship. Hopefully I'll find a niche in a JAG outfit. I figure it will be good practical trial experience, the med/PX/Space-A benefits are hard to beat, and It'll satisfy my travellin' jones. It's a little more 9-to5ish, too, and you're sometimes helping folks out that go through a lot of gruff.