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How do I Become a Navy JAG?

C. K. Lanz
C. K. Lanz

Law school students, civilian licensed attorneys and active duty Navy officers who are U.S. citizens of good moral character can apply to become an officer in the Navy’s judicial arm known as the Judge Advocate General’s Corps or JAG Corps. The Navy offers several enrollment programs depending on the applicant's status. A Judge Advocate is an officer serving as a legal adviser and prosecutor in the JAG Corps under the direction of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. Those who seek to become a Navy JAG officer must complete a competitive multi-step process.

Individuals who plan to apply to become a Navy JAG strive for a high grade point average and class rank while attending a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. Law school candidates attempt to maintain high undergraduate grade point averages and earn competitive scores on the Law School Admission Test. Law schools generally do not prefer a specific undergraduate major over others. Only law school students, civilian lawyers and active duty Navy officers can apply to become a Navy JAG.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Any civilian law school student can apply to become a Navy JAG officer while still attending law school. As a participant in the student program, the student is first commissioned in the inactive Navy Reserve and then appointed as an active duty JAG officer after graduating law school, being admitted to a bar association and completing Navy Officer Development School in Newport, Rhode Island. The officer development school is a five-week course and is followed by a ten-week basic lawyer course at the Naval Justice School. Law school students can also gain experience by working as an unpaid JAG Corps summer intern.

Civilian licensed attorneys younger than 42 years who have been admitted to practice before a Federal Court can apply to the Navy JAG Corps’ Direct Appointment Program. Direct appointment participants attend the officer development school and must complete the ten-week basic lawyer course at the Naval Justice School. Once a direct appointment participant has completed the officer development school coursework, he or she can become a commissioned Navy JAG officer.

An active duty Navy officer who wants to become a Navy JAG can apply to participate in the Law Education Program if he or she are college graduates who can serve 20 years of active service prior to his or her 62nd birthday. This participants attend an ABA-accredited law school, earn the Juris Doctor degree and can then serve as career JAG officers. Approximately seven Navy officers are accepted into the Law Education Program annually. These participants remain on active duty while attending law school.

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