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What does a JAG Lawyer do?

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  • Written By: Christine W.
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  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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Officers serving in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps are called judge advocates. A judge advocate is a commissioned officer who serves in the United States military as a JAG lawyer. A JAG lawyer can act in the capacity of a prosecutor, defense counsel, a judge and an adviser. U.S. military branches that hire judge advocates include the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.

JAG lawyers are not civilians, they are active military officers. JAG Corps training is not the same type of boot camp training that enlisted soldiers go through, and each JAG program will differ, depending on the military branch. JAG training introduces trainees to a particular branch of the armed services and to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The forum where a judge advocate prosecutes a criminal case or defends military personnel in a criminal matter is called a court-martial. A court-martial is where criminal cases for the armed forces are tried. In addition to criminal law, a JAG lawyer also practices administrative law, which includes personnel, environmental issues and the Freedom of Information Act; labor law; contract law; medical and malpractice law; and civil litigation, such as representing U.S. tort claims.

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For most JAG lawyers, the bulk of their day-to-day work will involve legal assistance to military personnel and their families, which includes drafting wills, tax and estate planning, immigration and naturalization, power of attorney, family law and landlord-tenant issues. After serving as JAG lawyers and attaining additional training, JAG lawyers also can become judges at courts-martial. In addition, judge advocates can teach other military lawyers to become judge advocates.

A JAG lawyer must commit to at least four years of military service. JAG lawyers also are considered to be military officers first and lawyers second. However, in most cases, JAG lawyers do not actively participate in combat but can be stationed anywhere in the world that legal services are needed.

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Logicfest
Post 2

@Vincenzo -- It is not a bad gig if you can deal with military discipline (some people cannot) and are chosen to be a JAG lawyer in the first place. Don't get me wrong. Being a JAG lawyer is a great career choice for a lot of people, but word has gotten out about the advantages of it and the military has become highly selective. A lot of people want to get in, but few actually do.

Vincenzo
Post 1

What do JAG lawyers do? They live pretty good lives, that is what. While there are a heck of a lot of law students trying to figure out what to do after they graduate, JAG lawyers already know. Those are typically the men and women who are in the military and are sent to law school by their branches of the service.

It is a pretty good gig, really. They are paid to go to law school and are given a great career after they graduate and pass the bar. Plus they can retire after they put in their 20 years and choose to either go into private practice or just sit around and not work. Nope. Not a bad gig at all.

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