sartorial splendor wrote: ↑
Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:58 pm
howell wrote: ↑
Sat Apr 21, 2018 5:43 pm
Finally checking in.
I assume we have a very similar audience as the other thread, but for anyone new, I'm an active duty AF JAG entering the sweet spot for leaving active duty. Still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
How did you find AF JAG did in exposing you to and training you in the various areas of the law? Did you get substantial court time and what was the timeline after first starting as a JAG that you started seeing court time? What exit opportunities do you feel will give you the best path forward in your career? Thank you for checking in.
I'll answer a bit out of order.
I got out of JASOC in April and was in my first court-martial in October. I narrowly missed getting my first court in June. If I had a different (read: normal) SJA, I would have done the court in June. But the October court was a sex assault, so I also got in a contentious preliminary hearing before October, and I did a discharge board or two during that time as well. From that first October until I deployed 1.5 years later, I did a total of 8 courts. If I had a different SJA, I might have had 2-3 more courts during that time. We were probably an average base as far as court tempo - in a busy year, we could have 10-12 courts, but in a slow year we could get back down to 1-2. 4 of my courts had litigated findings (the others were guilty pleas with "litigated" sentencing), and one court was relatively complex with recruiter issues, sex assault, 30+ witnesses, experts, etc. I got to do every part of a court except perhaps the main cross of the Accused, but I don't think I ever had the Accused testify besides for motions purposes.
I felt like the experience was really good. We often got put in situations in courts where no one knew the right answer and we had little oversight while trying to figure it out on our own. Sometimes we had Senior Trial Counsel on cases, and I was fortunate to have really good ones who also knew how to teach (in their own kinder and less-kind ways). I think a normal amount of courts for your first 2 years would be 5-10. You can get more at busier bases.
My best court experience came in my second assignment as an Area Defense Counsel. In about 18 months, I did 21 courts, and I certainly did the lion's share of the work on most of them. I really like working in pairs on cases, but I felt like I grew the hell up when I had to fully litigate cases on my own.
The AF JAG Corps does a really good job of exposing its people to all the areas of the law the AF covers in their first 2-4 years. Certainly there is the criminal litigation side, but we also do legal assistance (all kinds of stuff), contracts, labor, environmental, ethics, medical, FOIA/info requests, random interpretation questions, claims/torts, operational law, and more - or some mix of that. Certainly even more is available after your first assignment or two. Although you will have a title at the base legal office like "Chief of Adverse Actions," you will still be doing a little of everything your office needs to get done all the time.
When looking at getting out, I have had to get creative at figuring out what I can do. One problem is that JAGs are generally selected for and drawn to certain kinds of work, so we overwhelmingly take a few major paths. The AF trains us VERY well for federal civilian attorney positions. We learn how to support a massive federal agency, and those skills are needed by just about all federal agencies.
I'd feel comfortable applying for any kind of criminal litigation work - ADA, PD, AUSA, Fed Defender, certain private firms, etc. If AUSA/Fed Defender was my goal, I would have requested an appellate gig and then tried for a senior defense/trial counsel position.
I'm currently in a labor-heavy billet. Certainly it's in the federal sector, but after some investigation, I'd be willing to take a shot at one of the L&E firms. I know some associates at firms like that, and it's possible I could make the switch. I know of another JAG who did it, so I wouldn't be the first.
A little more contracting experience would always be helpful, but I haven't done much of that besides when I was deployed, and I wouldn't consider myself an expert from those few months.
Moving on to greater speculation: We also build skills to be helpful as in-house counsel. Certain industries would likely bode better for us, but we learn how to field a wide range of issues for a large organization and advise extremely demanding clients. It'd probably be best to get experience in an area a business needs (contracts, medical, cyber, etc.) to get in the door and then expand from there. I had a friend who works at a non-profit tell me about a sexual assault allegation between two of his employees, and he had no clue what to do. It was crazy to me that this organization was clueless and considering some extreme options. So perhaps there is a compliance/ethics/investigations angle we could work, especially in the #MeToo age.