Military Attorney and Lawyers

A military lawyer’s job is similar to a civilian lawyer in their day-to-day duties. Representing clientele under jurisdiction of military courts and law is the primary difference. The military attorney works exclusively with military personnel and may represent them in civil and criminal cases.

Each Military lawyer may work within any branch of the Navy, Army, Marines, or Air force even though each branch has their own Judge Advocate Generals (also known as JAGs). Military personnel may contact any military legal assistance office if they need legal representation. A Jag practices law in a Military court including court-martial, military review, Military Court of Inquiry, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

A Jag will go through the same educational process of a civilian lawyer. Military attorneys will need to know general law as well as military law.  They can either become a JAG after entering the military, or they may enter the military with the JAG requirements completed.

Educational Requirements

To become a military lawyer, a candidate must complete an undergraduate degree, apply for and pass the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and complete law school with a Juris Doctor degree in law.

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Role and Skills of a Military Lawyer

The role of a military attorney is as broad as that of a civilian attorney. They will participate in matters of both civil and criminal nature. One of the primary differences of a military court is the military tribunal that 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 council for court-martial.

A military attorney must possess an excellent understanding of all parts of civil and military law. Their advice and actions not only affect individuals, it may also reflect on their branch of service and the United States Government.
They must be able to work under pressure while maintaining a cool decorum. They will need to have excellent communication skills both in the courtroom and out. Their ability to represent a broad range of clientele, from a young enlisted soldier to a high-ranking commander, requires they are comfortable communicating across the ranks.

Examples of Cases for Military Lawyers

The military court, while similar to civilian court, also differs. Therefore, the cases that a military lawyer participates in may be different. A few examples are:

  • Offenses- Military rules provide a variety of offenses that military personnel may be charged with. While many of the criminal offenses are similar to 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.
  • Court-Martial- 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 find 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.

Military Lawyer Salary & Job Outlook

The job outlook of a military lawyer will vary. Each branch of the military may have different needs. For instance, the Marines are a small branch of the service and serve as part of the Navy. The Marines may not need as many legal personnel than the Army. Speaking with a recruiting officer may offer insight into the possibilities of a career as a lawyer in the military.

The salary of a military attorney is set by rank and years in the military. A new attorney may start out at $66,470 a year. As they move up the ranks they can earn six-digit incomes.

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Lawyers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2023.

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