Military Lawyer. The pursuit of justice is of utmost importance in the Military, and the rights of service members are held in the highest regard and are defended and supported by top legal minds.
The Judge Advocate General’s Corps, also known as JAG or JAG Corps, refers to the legal branch or specialty of the military concerned with military justice and military law.
A military lawyer’s job is similar to a civilian lawyer’s in their day-to-day duties. Representing clients under the jurisdiction of military courts and law is the primary difference. Military lawyers handle a wide variety of legal issues, including international law, operations law, environmental law, and military and civilian personnel issues. From trial preparation to post-trial actions, lawyers provide important legal counsel every step of the way.
What Is Military Law?
Military law is the set of legal structures that govern military personnel. Topics covered by the military cover service members’ conduct while in training or on active duty, the protection of military spouses, and service members’ reentry into civil society when their tours of duty are over. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) governs service members’ conduct while in training or on active duty.
It lists nearly 60 activities in which service members cannot engage while in the military. If a service member violates one of these provisions, the service member’s commanding officer (CO) may decide to punish that soldier or refer him or her to a court-martial, which she will be tired of.
What Is a Military Lawyer?
Military lawyers address legal actions that occur within the military. Unlike other lawyers making money from contingency fees, they are paid a military lawyer’s salary or retainer, depending on how they offer their services. They protect the rights of and offer legal advice to military service members and personnel accused of a civil or criminal violation. Military crimes and civil actions are considered severe, which means you should speak with a military lawyer if you need legal advice.
What Do Military Lawyers Do?
The role of a military lawyer is as broad as that of a civilian lawyer. They will participate in matters of both civil and criminal nature; one of the primary differences between a military court and a civilian court is that a military tribunal deals with enemies during wartime.
Some of the roles of the military lawyer include:
. Advising military clients brought before the courts.
. Handling the legal discipline of military personnel.
. Drafting and preparing legal documents.
. Creating and maintaining military handbooks.
. Preparing a client for trial.
. Advising commanders on international law, military law, and civilian law.
. Acting as counsel for court-martial.
. Taking part in court-martial appeals
. Academy disenrollment
. ROTC and military command investigations
Military Lawyer vs. Civilian Lawyer
The military follows a different set of laws than civilians do. As such, a military lawyer must have a different skill set from a civilian lawyer. For example, military personnel can violate court-martial laws without incurring a civil infraction. A military lawyer must know how to bring justice to military courts.
These are a few differences between a military lawyer and a civilian lawyer:
. They Follow Different Rules
Military lawyers must follow the UCMJ. They will follow this body of codes as it governs military processes and procedures. Laws that apply to military cases include:
. Article 15
. Article 32
. AWOL laws
. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
. Appeals Follow Various Procedures
Each branch of the military has specific procedures for appeals. They can take a mandatory amount of time or follow a specific line of command. In some cases, there is no way to hasten the appeals process, unlike a civilian appeal.
. They Receive Different Training
Military lawyers receive additional training beyond graduating from an accredited law school and passing a state bar exam. They must also attend military lawyer JAG training. It is from here that they learn how to navigate military proceedings.
. Military Lawyer JAG Corp Involvement
Instead of hiring a public defender or private counsel, defendants hire military lawyers, such as JAG officers, as their public lawyer equivalent. They are members of the military who provide legal services for service members.
. Juries Are Chosen and Adjudicated Differently
In contrast to civilian matters, juries can comprise three to twelve members. The number of jurors depends on the type of case. They also make decisions by a two-thirds majority vote, which is also different from civilian cases.
Cases for Military Lawyers
As mentioned earlier, there are similarities and differences between the civilian and military courts. That means there are unique cases that may be different from the ones handled by civilian lawyers. Some examples include:
. Military Offenses
Military rules provide a variety of offenses that military personnel may be charged with. While many of the criminal offenses are similar to those in civilian courts, such as murder and theft, the military oversees special offenses unique to the armed forces. These offenses include desertion, murder in combat, and insubordination.
One of the prevailing outcomes of any criminal proceeding against military personnel is a Court-Martial. If a person is found guilty of a crime, a court martial is likely. The military attorney may represent the offending party or the military branch they serve.
. Landlord-Tenant Disputes
Moving is one of the hallmarks of military life. As such, it is not uncommon for military personnel to feel the need to hire an attorney in a landlord-tenant dispute. While military lawyers do not represent clients dealing with other civil issues such as divorce or child custody, they will represent a military client in a landlord-tenant case.
Benefits Of Hiring a Military Lawyer
Hiring a military lawyer provides the following benefits:
. You may feel less overwhelmed and better represented in court.
. Ongoing counsel and advice are available throughout the entire process.
. Your military lawyer will conduct an independent investigation of the facts and preserve all discoverable evidence.
. Your military lawyer will explain your rights and options that act on your consent.
. You will receive a chance to prepare your case for pre-trial with an experienced legal professional.
How to Become a Military Lawyer?
. Be A Valid Applicant
To be a valid applicant, you must be a U.S. citizen. Then, you need to pass a security clearance, which investigates your history, particularly regarding finances, substance abuse, and health. Plus, you need to pass the physical fitness requirements for your military branch of choice. Finally, make sure that you meet the age requirement: 42
. Earn An Undergraduate Degree
Before going to law school, you need to get a Bachelor’s degree. Although there are no specific requirements for majors or classes, most to-be military lawyers opt for a liberal arts degree that covers a solid educational foundation. A focus on foreign languages is also attractive since the military environment uses many languages.
. Go to Officer Candidate School
After graduating, you should go to OCS, which is an academy to train prospective military officers. You can also attend OCS after law school, but it is more common to finish OCS first to gain the skills needed to excel in law school. Once you finish OCS, you can enter the military as a commissioned officer.
. Pass the LSAT Exam
This is the pre-entrance exam called the LSAT (Law School Aptitude Test). It is a 175-minute exam that includes five sections of multiple-choice questions. There will also be reading comprehension questions, analytic reasoning questions, logical reasoning questions, and a writing section.
Note: The writing section is not graded but will be given to the schools that you apply to.
Like the SAT, the LSAT is held at different locations throughout the nation several times a year.
. Finish Your Legal Education
Complete your education by taking other special programs that can give you a competitive edge. For example, summer internships and graduate law programs (The Army has an internship opportunity in the summer, the Air Force has a graduate law program, and the Navy has a JAG Corps program for students). Then, attend and earn a degree from a law school that is ABA-approved. This will “secure” your seat at the bar exam in any of the U.S.’s 50 states.
Lastly, finish a professional responsibility course to become well-versed in the legal profession’s ethics. Generally, you will be studying legal ethics history and development as well as how to apply it when practicing law.
. Pass The Bar Exam
You will need to prepare for the exam and register to take it. It is best to take it in the state where you attended law school. This exam will likely last for 2 to 3 days. In general, it will include:
. Multistate Professional Responsibility: A 2-hour exam with 60 questions on the legal profession’s ethics rules
. A 6-hour exam (Multistate Bar Examination) with 600 questions on criminal, contract, civil, and constitutional procedure, property law, and test torts.
. Multistate Performance Test: Assessment of analytical skills using a legal fact pattern.
. A set of 30-minute (Multistate Essay Exam) essays from different areas of the law.
. Depending on where you take the exam, there may be state-specific essay tests.
Note: Results are usually available 10 weeks following the date of the test.
. Apply For the State Bar
Make sure that you are at least 18 years old when applying. Like the step at the beginning, you will need to pass a security clearance, which checks your background and references. You will need to disclose information about criminal records, credit scores, tax records, etc. In case you have red flags on your profile, you can turn in an explanatory statement. Plus, you need to submit your fingerprints and pay all the registration fees.
. Attend A State Swearing Ceremony
This is so that you can take the oath for new attorneys. You will need to be administered by an official. There will also be forms that you have to fill out.
. Join the JAG Corps.
To join the JAG Corps, you will need to be accepted through a rigorous application process. An application package typically includes educational transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement/cover letter, LSAT scores, etc. You will also need to pass an interview. Once you are accepted, you can start by selecting a military branch.
Next, finish the enlistment procedure. This depends on the branch that you select. Hence, you will need to meet with recruiters or contact them via online means, such as the branch’s website.
. Start Training and Enter Active Duty
The final step is to advance into training and begin active-duty service. Usually, a military commitment spans four years. Then, you can decide to leave or re-enlist.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice
Most of the rules that govern military conduct in the United States come from the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The UCMJ applies to all active service members. There are more than 60 prohibited behaviors under the UCMJ. Supervisors may punish offenders informally, or they may refer offenders to formal court-martial proceedings. Offenses can result in dismissal from the military, incarceration, and other penalties.
Commonly charged offenses under the UCMJ include:
. Wrongful cohabitation
. Disorderly/drunken conduct
. Animal abuse
. Check fraud
. Improper fraternisation
. Offenses involving mail
. Weapon offenses
. Disloyal statements
. Inappropriate language
. Failing to pay a debt
. Endangering a child
. Obstruction of justice
Related Practice Area
Some related practice areas for military lawyers include:
. International law: Many military operations occur overseas, and soldiers may at times run afoul of international laws.
. Employment law: Military personnel are employees of the Department of Defence. Additionally, military personnel are entitled to special protections when returning to civil life.
. Criminal law: Service members commit war crimes. Additionally, some publishable offenses are criminal in nature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions:
Why Become a Military Lawyer?
whether they work as service members or in private practice, members of the military do important work for their clients. Military lawyers who are service members can have long and accomplished careers in the U.S. military. They perform an important function whether they advocate for the interests of the military or defend accused service members.
Military attorneys in private practice also perform critical work representing service members as well as other criminal defendants. Military lawyers perform important work that can provide them with a challenging career in the military and criminal law. For lawyers who enjoy litigation, criminal law, and interacting with members of the U.S. military, military law can be a good fit.
How Does the Military Handle Minor Offenses?
there’s a military law system in place to address minor infractions. The accused individual appears before a hearing without a judge or jury. They may face a reduction in rank, revocation of privileges, extra work duties, or reprimands. The military disposes of most minor infractions through these informal proceedings.
Who Needs a Military Lawyer?
. You may need a military lawyer when:
. When accused of a criminal offense.
. You are dealing with landlord-tenant disputes.
. When you are trying to avoid a court-martial.
. You are accused of treason and need a military lawyer on your treason defense team.