How do I Become a Military Attorney?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2019
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There are several ways to become a military attorney. In all cases, working as a military attorney, known as a judge advocate general (JAG) in the United States military, can be very rewarding. The work offers diverse opportunities for legal practice, and often young lawyers can get immediate experience in the military, in contrast with the limited experience offered to junior members of law firms in the civilian world. It is possible to sign up for a single term of service, or to become a career military attorney, depending on one's long term career goals. People who choose the military as a career have access to a wide range of job benefits.

One way to become a military attorney is to attend law school, be admitted to the bar, and then sign up for military service. Candidates need to pass fitness tests, and if accepted, they will be sent to officer training school so that they can enter the military as officers. After serving a tour of duty, they have an option to reenlist, or to enter the reserves. People should know that each military branch maintains its own legal corps, so they should select a branch they are interested in when they apply to become a military attorney.


Another option is to be commissioned as an officer with an undergraduate degree first, either by completing an education at a military college or by participating in a program like the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). Once commissioned with a bachelor's degree, an officer can ask to receive legal training. Taking pre-law and taking advantage of internships and other career advancement opportunities is recommended, as the military will not necessarily pay for law school unless it thinks that it would be a good investment.

People can also attend an officer candidate school, a school which prepares civilians and enlisted personnel for service as officers, in order to be commissioned as officers on their path to become a military attorney. With a commission in hand, an application can be made to become a military attorney. One advantage to completing legal training after joining the military is that the military will often pay for it, although career officers can sometimes access loan forgiveness and other forms of financial assistance to pay off the legal training they received before entering the armed services.

Anyone who wants to become a military attorney should be aware that while their primary area of work will be in legal practice, they are also representatives of their national government. Members of the military are held to high appearance, behavior, and performance standards and they can be discharged if they fail to represent the uniform with honor.



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Post 2

@Soulfox -- That is all very true. I had a friend in law school who was a lieutenant in the Marines. His assignment was to attend law school and graduate. Not only was that guy one of the most disciplined ones in law school (he was on the law review and made the dean's list every semester), the Marines paid for his tuition, books and housing. He was still getting a paycheck from the military while in law school, too.

After law school, he was assigned to Hawaii and put to work as a JAG lawyer. Heck of a deal. He was about 30-years-old when he graduated from law school and had been in the service for a few years before that. He will be able to retire in his 40s and then go into a civilian practice if that's what he wants to do.

Post 1

While some members of the public might not believe it, this can be an awesome career choice. There's virtually no scrambling for cases and a "lifer" can put in 20 years and then retire from the military at half pay. That's not a bad deal at all.

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