Will I Get Deployed As a Judge Advocate?

If you’re a lawyer interested in a career with the military, you may wonder whether you’ll get deployed while in the JAG Corps. Depending on your service branch and the type of law you want to practice, this question is an important one.

Yes, you will probably get deployed at some point during your JAG career. Deployment can be anywhere from six months on a ship or sub to 12 months at an overseas forward operating base. It’s not unusual for a JAG officer to be deployed every two years or so.

Do you know what your responsibilities will be on deployment?

Judge advocates (called “JAGs”) are commissioned legal officers who serve as attorneys for the United States military. They are responsible for defending and prosecuting criminal cases in court-martial, providing legal counsel to commanders, and advising military courts on all matters of military justice. They work in a variety of legal areas from civil law to prosecution and are often assigned to overseas bases.

Why are you interested in becoming a JAG?

For many lawyers, a military career is a chance to fulfill their obligation to the country while getting hands-on experience with the laws of war and the United States Constitution. For others, it’s a way to get the experience they need to move on to a more lucrative and challenging career.

What do you need to do to get into the JAG Corps?

If you are a licensed lawyer with at least one year of active duty service, you can apply to become a JAG Officer. Upon acceptance into the program, you’ll be asked to attend a ten-and-a-half week course known as the Judge Advocate Basic Training Course at one of the Army’s worldwide law offices. This training prepares you to be an effective and seasoned legal professional within the military justice system.

You’ll also be asked to complete a comprehensive evaluation and interview process with a Field Screening Officer. These people are specially trained to assess the qualifications of a lawyer and recommend an appropriate military assignment.

Does this mean that I will have to leave law school before I can become a JAG?

If your goal is to become a JAG officer, it’s best to start planning early. You need to have a strong academic track record and be willing to make a commitment to the military, which can be difficult to adjust to at first.

Are there programs to help you enter the JAG Corps without a law degree?

If you’re a student with a legal degree but not yet licensed, you can still join the JAG Corps. The Navy offers a Direct Appointment (DA) Program that permits a licensed lawyer with at least one year or more of cumulative active duty service to be appointed immediately to the Navy JAG Corps. This allows you to gain the necessary legal and command experience to qualify for a commission.

For those who are ready to take the next step in their legal careers, contact a PSC counselor who can guide you through the application and selection processes for each branch’s JAG program. You can also get advice about the different practice areas in the JAG Corps and how to navigate the complexities of military life as a civilian lawyer.