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How do I Become a Marine Corps JAG?

By Bill C.
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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To become a Marine Corps JAG — or to become a member of what is commonly known as the Marine Corps Judge Advocate General corps — a person must first be an attorney, law student, or an individual who wants to become a legal services specialist. A candidate must also meet the qualifications of the Marine Judge Advocate Division and complete specified training.

Since the Marines are a division of the Navy, its JAG corps are not an entirely separate entity. This is reflected in the use of “Division” rather than “General Corps” in the organization's title. The result of this situation is a unique chain of command.

An attorney desiring to become a Marine Corps JAG must be a graduate of law school accredited by the American Bar Association and must have been admitted to practicing law in a Federal court or the highest court of a U.S. state or the District of Columbia. Those qualifications make the person eligible for acceptance in the Officer Candidates Course Law Program. After acceptance, the attorney attends Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia. Office Candidate School graduates enter the officer ranks of the Marine Corps as second lieutenants and enter active duty.

Law students may also start taking the steps to become a Marine Corps JAG officer under the Platoon Leaders Class Law Program. College seniors in law schools accredited by the bar association, in addition to first and second year students in accredited law schools, are eligible to apply for the program. An accepted applicant attends the same program in Quantico as attorneys and also stands to become a Marine Corps JAG second lieutenant, but the person remains in an inactive duty status until he or she receives a law degree and is admitted to the bar.

There are dozens more specifics, qualifications and training necessary to become a Marine Corps JAG legal services specialist. Legal services specialists are usually assigned to support legal offices throughout the Marine Corps. They generally perform administrative, clerical, and managerial duties associated with legal operations. General duties typically involve legal operational, managerial, clerical, and administrative duties.

Although the Marines do not technically have a JAG corps, its Judge Advocate Division is typically given that designation. Officially, the Judge Advocate Division works in support of the Marines' senior legal officer, the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. In the chain of command, the Navy's senior legal officer, its Judge Advocate General, ranks higher than the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps

Despite differences in the organizational name and chain of command, the legal arm of the Marines is still quite similar to the JAG corps in the other military services. It has virtually the same job descriptions as the Navy JAG corps, with the sole exception of the officer designation for attorneys. JAG officers in the Navy and all the military branches except the Marines are non-combat officers. Marine JAG officers are line officers, meaning they can assume command roles in combat situations.

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