April 24, 2024

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    What Do Military Lawyers Do: Defending Our Forces

    What Do Military Lawyers Do: Defending Our Forces

    Military lawyers, also known as Judge Advocates, are integral to the armed forces’ legal system. They serve both as legal advisors and courtroom advocates for soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. Their scope of practice encompasses a variety of legal matters, from advising commanders on rules of engagement and operational law to defending or prosecuting military personnel in courts-martial.


    These legal professionals also engage in issues related to military justice, such as advising on administrative actions and providing guidance on ethical conduct. With a deep understanding of military regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), military lawyers play a crucial role in ensuring justice and maintaining discipline within the armed forces.


    Role Of Military Lawyers

    The Role of Military Lawyers spans much beyond what meets the eye. These legal experts play a pivotal role in ensuring justice and adherence to the law within the ranks of the armed forces. Operating in an environment where the rules of civil life meet the regimented discipline of military service, their tasks are both diverse and specialized.


    Varied Legal Functions In The Armed Forces

    One may imagine military lawyers solely engaging in court-martials or discipline hearings. Yet, they fulfill a vast array of responsibilities:
    • Advising military personnel on legal matters.
    • Prosecuting and defending in courts-martial.
    • Handling military contracts, ensuring they meet legal standards.
    • Educating service members on laws and regulations.
    • Overseeing administrative proceedings, from promotions to retirements.
    • Assisting in international laws during operations abroad.

    What Do Military Lawyers Do

    Journey To Becoming A Military Lawyer

    The journey to becoming a military lawyer is both challenging and rewarding. Not only do military lawyers get the chance to serve their country, but they also gain unique legal experience. Their role encompasses a wide spectrum of legal responsibilities from court-martial proceedings to offering military operational law advice.
    If you’re dreaming of wearing the uniform on the field of justice, understanding the path to this prestigious role is essential. Let’s dive into the education and rigorous training that frames the career of a military lawyer.


    Education And Training Requirements

    Becoming a military lawyer begins with a solid educational foundation. Aspiring JAG officers need to earn a bachelor’s degree followed by a Juris Doctor (JD) from an accredited law school. Admission tests such as the LSAT are a must to enter law schools. After law school, they must pass the bar exam to practice law.
    • Undergraduate Degree: Essential for law school eligibility.
    • Law School Admission Test (LSAT): Required for law school entrance.
    • Juris Doctor (JD): Earned from an accredited institution.
    • Bar Exam: Passage is a must for legal practice.
    In addition to their academic background, candidates receive direct commissions after completing a training program known as Officer Candidate School (OCS) or equivalent military induction schools.

    Commissioning Into The Jag Corps

    After meeting the educational requisites, lawyer candidates undergo specialized training to join the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. This includes:
    Basic Officer Leadership Course:This course introduces candidates to military life and leadership.
    JAG School:Lawyers gain comprehensive military legal training.
    Direct Commission:Candidates are officially inducted as JAG officers.
    Ongoing Education:JAG officers continue learning through CLEs (Continuing Legal Education).
    Each service branch has its own JAG Corps, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. With a commission in one of these, lawyers are ready to undertake a dynamic legal profession in the military, serving those who serve the nation.
    Court-martial Proceedings

    Court-martial Proceedings

    The term “Court-Martial Proceedings” paints a picture of military justice in action. This critical process ensures service members’ accountability to military law. Set in a courtroom, the roles of military lawyers come to life as they take on the mantle of defense or prosecution. With the weight of a career in the balance, these proceedings follow structured protocols, providing a fair trial for those who serve.

    Defense And Prosecision Roles

    • Defense Lawyers protect service members’ rights, crafting strategies to argue against accusations.
    • Prosecution Lawyers, also known as trial counsel, represent the government, presenting evidence of wrongdoing.
    Both work tirelessly, ensuring justice serves as the cornerstone of the process.

    Military Family Law Matters

    Military family law matters are unique legal issues faced by service members. These require specialized knowledge of both military procedures and family law. Military lawyers play a crucial role in navigating these complex situations.

    Navigating Divorce And Custody Cases

    Military divorces present challenges different from civilian divorces. Common concerns include:
    • Deployment schedules, affecting custody and visitation.
    • Jurisdiction questions, as service members may be stationed away from home.
    • Distribution of military benefits in the divorce settlement.
    • Understanding the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).
    Military lawyers assist clients in creating parenting plans that accommodate unique military duties. They ensure fair distribution of assets, including military pensions.


    Benefits And Support Structure

    Military lawyers help service members understand their entitlements:
    Benefit TypeDetails
    Health CareTRICARE and medical support for families.
    Housing AllowancesBasic Allowance for Housing (BAH) calculations.
    Survivor BenefitsEnsuring spouse and child benefits in the event of death.
    Retirement PayDivision and rights to military retirement pay.
    Military lawyers also provide guidance on child and spousal support in line with federal regulations and service member’s pay structure.

    What Services Do Military Lawyers Offer?

    Military lawyers, also known as judge advocates, provide legal assistance in a variety of contexts within the armed forces. They handle court-martials, give advice on military law, defend service members, and engage in administrative legal matters.


    Can Military Lawyers Represent You In Court?

    Yes, military lawyers can represent service members in military courts, commonly known as courts-martial. They can act as both defense counsel and prosecutors within the military justice system.


    What’s The Difference Between Civilian And Military Law?

    Military law is a distinct legal system for governing military personnel. It includes the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which differs from civilian law. It addresses offenses and procedures unique to military service.


    How Do You Become A Military Lawyer?

    To become a military lawyer, one must obtain a law degree, pass the bar exam, and complete the required military training academy for their respective branch. They must also meet the qualifications to serve as a military officer.



    Military lawyers play a crucial role in maintaining legal order within the armed forces. They ensure justice for service members while upholding military law complexities. Their expertise spans from court-martial defense to advising on international law, proving indispensable for a disciplined military establishment.

    Thomas Dearborn
    About Author

    Thomas Dearborn

    I am honoured to share my experiences and stories for all the years of my service