Didn’t you leave enlisted Army to go to law school? Why would you turn down a great opportunity with a law firm for the Navy? Don’t you have a family? Aren’t you concerned you will not actually do legal work? Questions like these were common as I juggled the decision of whether to take the corporate path or rejoin the military as an attorney. These concerns were warranted based on my previous experiences.
Taijae W. Evans, U.W. 2020, serves as an attorney in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
For instance, although I worked in military intelligence (MI) from 2013 to 2016, seldom did I have the opportunity to use my MI skills. Whenever I lacked MI work, which was roughly 95 percent of the time, I was relegated to “grunt” life – infantry lifestyle. Grunts are often referred to as the “pointy end of the American spear” because they are typically the first troops on the ground. There is nothing wrong with this lifestyle, but it is not what I signed up for. It is not what I trained for. I joined MI because my recruiter promised a life of complex problem-solving. (As an aside, I know that if something is not in the contract it is not guaranteed.)
This brings me to the main concern of my friends and colleagues: rejoining the military will result in an intellectual void because I would rarely use my legal skills. This is one of the most common misconceptions about the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). I would like to debunk this myth.
JAG officers are part of the Staff Corps of the United States Navy. The Navy Staff Corps consists of human resource officers, public affairs officers, physicians, dentists, civil and duty engineers, nurses, chaplains, and supply officers. Staff Corps officers are carefully chosen due to their specialized career fields. A Staff Corps officer’s purpose is to perform their specialty within the Navy. This means that even if their work were to become scarce, they would remain in their respective fields. However, this rule is not universal across all branches. Marine and Coast Guard JAG officers’ duties may shift due to the needs of their branches.
As a Naval JAG attorney, I will experience a diverse legal practice. I can choose to be a generalist, or I can specialize in one of the following areas: military justice (prosecution, defense, judiciary, and appellate), legal assistance, administrative law, admiralty and maritime law, civil litigation, environmental law, international law, or national security law (rules of engagement, law of the sea, law of armed conflict, cyber and intelligence law). With access to all these specializations, Naval JAG attorneys do not lack the ability to use their legal skills.
Many consider Naval JAG one of the most challenging jobs in the legal field because JAG officers must practice law in whichever state they are stationed. This requires extensive knowledge of multiple states’ statutes in addition to federal laws. The diverse assignments of Naval JAG attorneys allow for continued learning and challenges.
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Taijae W. Evans, U.S. Navy JAG’s Corps.
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