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Career Story: Military Attorney

Military Attorney

Job Title: Military Attorney

Type of Company: The U.S. Army.

Education: BA,Criminal Justice/Political Science, University of Georgia •• JD, Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, Campbell University •• LLM (with specialty in Criminal Law) from the US Army's Judge Advocate General's Center & School.

Previous Experience: I've been a military attorney with the U.S Army since 1992 working in legal assistance, claims, military justice, and administrative and operational law. I deployed to Iraq in 2004 and was chief of the Detention Operations Legal Center.

Job Tasks: I am currently the deputy for the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service, which manages all defense counsel in the Army stationed all over the world. We provide defense legal services to soldiers and some civilians at courts-martial or trials. We also have a training program which assists counsel in becoming effective trial litigators and in enhancing their skills once they've practiced for a year or more. These jobs involve travelling at times from one military base to another. We also work to assist with changes in policy and strategic planning so that our systems stays current and in line with the law established by the Congress and the Supreme Court.

In the past, I've done many types of jobs. I have been a legal assistance attorney, claims attorney, trial counsel or prosecutor, appellate defense counsel, civil litigation attorney, chief prosecutor, chief of administrative and operational law, chief of the largest Army claims office, chief of detention operations law, operational law attorney, deputy staff judge advocate, criminal law attorney at the policy level and now deputy chief of the defense legal services. I was also given the opportunity to get a masters of law degree in Charlottesville VA at the JAG School.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the experience in the law it's provided me with, far more diverse experience than most of the people who graduated from law school with me have had a chance to acquire. Army attorneys actually represent people right out of JAG school, on arrival at their first duty station; they counsel clients and even represent them at trial. Unlike our civilian counterparts who have to "shadow" a senior attorney and learn their craft slowly, we blunder right into it and are advised and trained by senior counsel.

The travel is wonderful too. I've lived in Korea and Germany. As you get more seniority, you start training the junior attorneys and you also become a manager/leader. As a leader, I have the chance to utilize my Army experience to help make our great attorneys even better. As chief prosecutor, my prosecutors won every case they worked on by obtaining a guilty finding. As a defense manager, I now get to watch our counsel work to get worthy clients acquitted of offenses that they could not be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I love to watch the military justice system as it evolves into an even better practice. I work with some of the most professional people in the world. We do not worry much about our counsel being unethical or immoral as those are Army values required of an Army officer.

The worst part of the job is that you do sometimes have to deploy to foreign countries and leave your family. I loved the work I did while away, but I missed my children. (My husband, who's also in the Army as it happens, was deployed with me that year.)

Job Tips: Try out the military. You will gain phenomenal experience and leadership and will be sought out by civilian organizations because they understand the responsibility you have as a soldier/leader. You will be practicing in the oldest law firm in the world with professional, moral and ethical attorneys. You will assist and be assisted by others with more experience. You will be practicing in a family type environment where your fellow co-workers are concerned about more than just getting the job done. They are concerned about your health and wellbeing.

Additional Thoughts: I'm surprised at how much I enjoy the military, the travel, the family-type organization, the leadership and the great team members.

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