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How do I Become a JAG Lawyer?

By Janis Bennett
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) of the United States military is referred to as a JAG lawyer. To become a JAG lawyer, a person must be enrolled in a branch of the U.S. military, complete law school and be a practicing attorney. There are JAG lawyers in the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy, so one of the first decisions to make if you want to become a JAG lawyer is to choose which military branch to join.

To become a JAG lawyer in the U.S. Army, you must first go to an accredited law school and be admitted to the bar of either the highest state court or a federal court. You also must be an officer in the Army and able to serve at least 20 years of active commissioned service prior to the age of 62, which means that you must be younger than 42 when you enter into active duty. You must then serve a four-year tour of duty and attend the three phases of the Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course: the Fort Lee Phase, the Charlottesville Phase and the Direct Commissioned Officer Course.

If you are looking to become a JAG lawyer in the U.S. Navy, you must have completed law school, be admitted to the bar of either a federal court or the highest state court and be an officer in the Navy. Then, you must complete the two phases of selection, a professional recommendation and a Navy commission application. The professional recommendation phase includes meeting several eligibility requirements, completing an application, having an interview and going through a board review. The Navy commission phase includes completing an Application for Commission, passing a personnel security background check, providing all required documentation and completing a physical exam. Only about 20 percent of all candidates are selected to be a JAG lawyer in the U.S. Navy.

To become a JAG lawyer in the U.S. Air Force, you must be an officer in the Air Force, and you will be allowed to take leave to attend law school. After finishing law school, you can return to duty and apply to the JAG Corps by completing all of the requirements and application processes similar to those of the Army and Navy. Any officer wanting to become a JAG lawyer in the Coast Guard should apply with the Coast Guard before enrolling in law school and then following through with all of the necessary requirements and applications. The Marine Corps does not have a JAG Corps, but officers can become judge advocates.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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