View Full Version : what to do with a JD in Small Wars?

Cato the Younger
11-19-2007, 01:48 AM
Dear All-
I am a second year Law Student with no military experience. I have many friends (most even) who are active duty United States Marine Infantry (enlisted), Army Rangers (guy from HS who went to West Point), a buddy in the Air Force (Pilot). They have all told me about their experiences in Iraq. Additonally, I work with a Vietnam combat vet, and have a Korean War veteran in my family (was at Pusan, the Yalu, Korea 50-53). So, I am wondering what path I should take to contribute to the US GWOT/small war (I am a US Citizen).

Thanks in advance for your advice,
Cato the Younger

11-19-2007, 01:55 AM
Well the easy answer would be a JAG officer. There is alot more work for lawyers in Iraq than you might think.

Rob Thornton
11-19-2007, 02:21 AM
I'll second Stu-6 on that one - finish your law degree and put that education to work in the field, then when you come back - even if you leave the JAG corps and the military, you'll still influence people back here. Talk to SWC member LawVol for his take on being a lawyer in the military and in a combat zone.

Best of Luck & Best regards, Rob

11-19-2007, 02:40 AM
Stu-6 is correct, JAG is the obvious answer. He is also right that there is alot of work for lawyers in Iraq and elsewhere. Since I am an Air Force JAG, I can only really speak some of the things we are doing, but I'm familiar with some of what the Army JAGs are doing as well.

Basically, there are lawyers everywhere (maybe in too many places). The basic position is the base SJA. Nearly every base has one and he or she handles anything that comes through the door, from drafting wills and handling troops' legal issues to training up those who go outside the wire on Rules of Engagement (ROE) and the law of war (LOW). Believe it or not, the most pressing issue for commanders (from my own experience and from talking to a few Army Jags I know) involves contracts. Contracts make the war move along. Back in the day before contractors became ubiquitous on the battlefield, logistics concerns ruled the day. Now contracting rules logistics. Since contracts involve money, commanders are loathe to act without legal advice. These issues were the ones that my commander had the most concerns with over the long term. However, even as an AF JAG, I still dealt with ROE and LOW as our security forces and EOD guys went off base (this isn't the forum to discuss the details surrounding that issue however.).

I also had the privilege of working with one of my Army counterparts from the 101st. In addition to the more mundane stuff such as legal assistance and wills (of course this stuff is extremely important to those that need it and we are a service industry so to speak) he also inspected the local dention facility to ensure compliance with international law and provided instruction to local units of the Iraqi Army.

At higher levels JAGs can run large contracting shops that deal with country-wide contracts or with instruction teams that provide training to Iraqi counterparts. There is also a program called the Law and Order Initiative whereby JAGs are assisting local Iraqi jurisdictions with setting up and running their own criminal justice systems. We also have lawyers in the Combined Air Operations Center (the entity that runs the air war; I'm sure the Army has a counterpart to this, but I am not familiar with it). These JAGs work with the intell guys and operators to scrub targets for compliance with international law. Studying small wars can help with this as it helps you to gain insight with your client, the operators.

All this stuff doesn't happen fresh out of training (at least not for AF JAGs). First, a JAG has to gain the experience necessary to handle the job and gain the trust of his commander. Of course their are always exceptions, but what I'm saying is that, as a baby JAG, you're not likely to jump into a deployed billet right away. But even at the home station, you will provide a service. The legal issues the troops bring in are important to them and by helping them handle those issues you are freeing up their thoughts and time to handle more pressing issues like family and training.

Of course, there are other positions within the US government that play a role in GWOT. DOJ and Treasury come to mind, but I haven't had the opportunity to work with any of those guys.

As I think alot of guys on this site can attest to from some of my previous posts, I really love the Air Force. Its been a great way to serve and there are plenty of opportunities to do some things that civilian lawyers can only dream about. If you like, you can PM me with your details and I can send you some information. I'll also give you my phone number so you can ask any specific questions you might have. BTW, I have also practiced law in a firm, so I can give you some insight on the differences between firm life and military life. I can also probably locate a point of contact with the other branches if you want to compare (you should as each branch is different).

11-19-2007, 04:29 PM
The answers you've gotten so far are spot on for uniformed service.

As LawVol says, other government agencies are also willing to hire lawyers. As are various PVOs, NGOs. From what I hear, once you are inside some of them (USG in particular), you don't have too much trouble shoving people out of the way if you are trying to get into the combat zone. :o

One might have to wonder what sort of experience-building program they have to develop you to go over and do good things. Perhaps others can speak to that. But be sure to look broader than the military.

11-20-2007, 03:54 PM
The first thing I would say is never underestimate the contribution to GWOT of being a productive citizen, raising children with a work ethic and a generally-functioning moral compass, and contributing at the neighborhood, local level.

My path here is a little different than most - USMC infantry reservist gunnery sergeant, who is a lawyer in my "other" life. Part of our ongoing transition to local control here involves various lines of organization (or LOOs). One is Rule of Law. It involves helping to establish a judiciary under the local constitution and ensuring its ability to preserve rights, administer justice fairly, and interact with the other branches of government and the police. It's a mixture of ConLaw, CrimLaw, CrimPro, Civil Law, CivPro, Civil Engineering and supervising the actual construction of the buildings to house the courthouse and jails.

As STU-6 said, they're putting JDs to work here. SJAs/JAGs are heavily involved in the process and have the advantage of returning to traditional duties when our involvement in the small war ends.

Good luck, whatever path you choose will have its rewards.

11-20-2007, 04:31 PM
All the intelligence agencies have lawyers. Weren't most of the WWII OSS folks Yale law grads? Counterintell (CIFA) has many lawyers also. What about the FBI?

Its a pretty tired cliche, but "lawyers, guns, and money" are still central to Small Wars.

On the other hand, the same gifts that set you up for success as a lawyer should set you up for success in intelligence analysis. I met an Army Reserve Major, Military Intelligence Branch, in Washington State whose day job was attorney. You wouldn't get the same benefits as going JAG, but that's not all bad. I've met a lot of folks who deliberately don't do the same thing in the reserves that they do for a day job (an RN who commanded a National Guard Infantry Company is the best example, but M.D.s with enlisted rank, executives commanding tanks as NCOs, a PBS employee flying helicopters, etc.)

I'm Army Reserve, so I am biased, but there are a lot of options, and many are open to civilians. What Army Reserve, especially intel could give you is military experience, and with the right specialty, a security clearance, both of which look good to many employers.

Best of luck to you, and if I can help more, feel free to contact me off line.

Cato the Younger
11-21-2007, 05:07 AM
I appreicate your sage advice- I never before considered perhaps a reserve option- but it is interesting how many options are available to me with the JD.

Thank You for all of your thoughtful replies.