Air Force JAG 101: What is the JAG? (FAQ’s Part 1)

Air Force JAG 101 - FAQs Part 1I never realized how tough it would be to explain what it is that my husband is going to do.  Although I shouldn’t have been surprised given that before Will participated in a random Army JAG interview on campus I had never heard of JAG outside of that old TV show.  So for those of you wondering, here is round one of answers to some of the questions you’ve been throwing my way (and some I wondered myself).

What is a JAG?
JAG stands for Judge Advocate General. Every military branch (Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard) has a JAG Corp. Will will be in the Air Force JAG. JAGs are military lawyers. Their responsibilities cover a range of law practice areas from criminal, international, medical, contracts, environmental…basically you name it, they do it. They advise on the legal ramifications of military acts as well as aid other soldiers in anything and everything law related from handling divorces to defending in criminal cases.

What is the benefit to going JAG vs working for a firm?
Big law, and even smaller law firms can be very enticing. They often offer ridiculous six figure starting salaries and the promise of a posh lifestyle straight out of school. However they may also include 70+ hour work weeks, lots of pressure and stress, and can require years of pencil pushing before young attorneys ever set foot in a courtroom. JAGs are usually paid slightly less than their big law peers, generally have to deploy at some point, or possibly multiple times during their careers, and there is always the nagging issue of the uncertainty of where you will be living.  Starting pay is around $65,000 inclusive of the housing and living allowances, however the allowance is tax free, benefits for a JAG are free (including healthcare), and there are countless perks like cheap travel, on base tax free stores, paid tuition reimbursement up to $65,000 (yay!!), and immediate 30 day vacation allowances. JAGs may just work the normal duty hours from 07:30 to 16:30 every day, or they may end up working long hours equivalent or surpassing their private sector peers. But one of the greatest perks is the JAG offers a high level of job security and financial stability.

What is the timeline for graduating and becoming a JAG?
I’ve read that it can be different for everyone, especially between the different branches. So from here I will tell you what I know based on our experience so far with the Air Force JAG. Will completed an internship the summer after his 2L year in law school with the AF JAG.  However, unlike law firm internships, your performance and standing as an intern does not guarantee your eligibility or selection as a full time JAG.  He applied to both the Army and Air Force JAG early last Fall (2010) and was in the pool for the October board. The number of boards held a year has changed due to a cut back in new recruits. We did not hear that he had been selected until November. We received a letter with the official offer and were told to inform them once Will passes the BAR at which time they will inform of us our assignment choices (I believe we get two *Update – you now only get one choice). He takes the BAR July 26-27 and in the past couple of years the NC BAR results have come back mid-August so we will hopefully know our assignment by the end of September.  We received notification last Friday (July 8, 2011) that he will begin COT in January (found out yesterday specifically Jan 12, 2012), will graduate February 12, will immediately begin JASOC February 13 and will graduate April 13, at which point we will move to our assigned base. Assignments are typically 2-3 years although I’ve read if you have family or are overseas sometimes they are more like 3-4 years.

Because I found it very difficult to find ANY information about the JAG when we were going through this, I will try my best to provide anything we know or experience FYI. Look for additional posts.

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