Is Military Law the Right Career for You?
If you watched the television show JAG or the movie A Few Good Men, you already know that the career of a military lawyer, or judge advocate general (JAG), can be both interesting and exciting. But the truth is, it also takes a great deal of training and a specific set of skills and interests. Answer these questions to see if - to paraphrase Jack Nicholson's famous quote - you can handle the truth:
|Are you interested in the military's legal system?||Yes or No|
|Are you prepared to become a military officer?||Yes or No|
|Are you an exceptional communicator?||Yes or No|
|Are you comfortable working with people of different ages and backgrounds?||Yes or No|
|Do you work well under pressure?||Yes or No|
|Are you adaptable?||Yes or No|
|Are you open to being away from home?||Yes or No|
|Are you committed to extensive post-secondary education?||Yes or No|
|Do you think analytically?||Yes or No|
|Are you self-disciplined?||Yes or No|
Why You Need to Consider These Questions
Are you interested in the military's legal system?
The military has a legal system that operates differently than the civilian legal system. As a military lawyer, you must be well versed in both areas of the law but will practice in the military court, which includes courts-martial and the Military Court of Inquiry.
Are you prepared to become a military officer?
One must be commissioned as an officer of a U.S. military branch before becoming a military lawyer. This requires about four months of officer and military law training.
Are you an exceptional communicator?
Like all attorneys, military lawyers must have the exceptional verbal and written communication skills required to represent clients in court settings and compose legal documents.
Are you comfortable working with people of different ages and backgrounds?
Military lawyers work with a wide variety of military members. In this career, you may represent anyone from a young enlisted soldier to a seasoned general or admiral.
Do you work well under pressure?
Practicing any type of law is stressful at times. In the military, this stress can be magnified given that, in this role, one serves as a representative of not just a client, but the United States government.
Are you adaptable?
Military lawyers handle the cases they are assigned, which may range from small civil matters to important criminal cases.
Are you open to being away from home?
As an active duty or reserve military lawyer, you may expect to be deployed for short and long-term assignments that will take you away from home for extended periods. During wartime, this could include deployment to areas of combat.
Are you committed to extensive post-secondary education?
Like civilian lawyers, a military lawyer must earn both a bachelor's degree and a juris doctor (J.D.) degree. This typically means about seven years of school.
Do you think analytically?
Military lawyers, like their civilian peers, must research, compile and process large amounts of information for each case. This requires keen analytical skills.
Are you self-disciplined?
Because they are military officers, military lawyers must adhere to a strict code of conduct both on and off the job. They also must stay in shape physically and may be required to participate in training exercises.
What Else You Should Consider
If you responded positively to a majority of these questions, you may have what it takes to thrive as a military lawyer. Along with law schools, you may also want to explore the opportunities available for military lawyers in the different branches of the military, as salaries and benefits vary. Keep in mind that, while military lawyers in any branch earn less than most civilian attorneys, the military offers excellent benefits that may include housing allowances and generous retirement packages.