The Definitive Guide to JAG Careers: Navy Edition

I am a big fan of JAG. The JAG attorneys I meet are consistently happy, they work on exciting issues and get courtroom experience right out of the gate, there are no billable hours, entry-level pay is over $60,000, a sizable portion of which is not taxed, they can get $65,000 in loan repayment assistance, they get the chance to travel all around the world, the military branches are always hiring, and grades are not nearly as important as they are in the firm world.

Serving as a military officer is a prestigious honor. Less than 1% of Americans serve in the military and less than 1% of those serving are officers.

I recently got some great JAG insider information when a Navy JAG attorney spoke at the NALP conference. If you’re interested in knowing how the branches are different, how JAG hiring works, and what life as a military lawyer is like, read on.

The Navy panelist was:


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Lieutenant Dan McGinley, Trial Counsel, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, United States Navy. Dan attended Berkeley Law and served in the peace corps. While in the JAG corps, he has served in Jacksonville, FL, served as a JAG on a hospital ship for six months, and is now stationed 45 minutes south of Fresno.

This blog post features the Navy. You can read about the Air Force and Army here  and the Coast Guard and Marines here.


What does the Navy do?

Those in the Navy are called sailors and the Navy focuses on protecting the sea. As a result, Navy JAGs will almost certainly find themselves on a boat at some point.

Navy missions include:

  • Training missions at sea with foreign navies
  • Regional security
  • Reconnaissance / intelligence missions to gather enemy data
  • At-sea rescues
  • Medical care programs for Navy, Marines, or perhaps people in or near a war theater
  • Oil spill or other marine cleanupsImage result for navy ship

The Navy is all about boats so if you’re not a big fan of the sea, the Navy might not be for you.

What is Navy JAG?

There are 700-800 active duty Navy attorneys.

The Navy JAG Corps provides solutions to legal issues with a focus on three essential capabilities:

Operational Law/Command Advice
The Navy operates in an increasingly complex legal and regulatory environment. They provide the legal expertise necessary to conduct military operations worldwide. They also support the Navy as a whole by providing legal advice for programs such as recruiting, training, and organization.

Military Justice
The American people expect the highest standards of personal and professional conduct from their armed forces. Navy JAGs maintain a fair and just system by enforcing the conduct and accountability of military personnel.

Support to Sailors and their Families
The men and women of the U.S. Navy are its most important asset. The Navy JAG Corps supports military personnel and their families by providing legal assistance services. Additionally, tjeu provide legal assistance for Wounded Warriors and assist active duty personnel through all stages of the disability evaluation system.

Image result for navy bases san diego

Because the Navy’s mission centers around ships, most Navy bases are located on the coasts so the Navy is known for its excellent base locations including Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, San Diego, Whidbey Island, Washington, Miami, DC, Cuba, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Japan, Guam, and Korea.

How do you apply to be a Navy lawyer?

The main way people get in to Navy JAG is through the student program. You can apply for this online during either your 2L or your 3L year. They also accept attorneys through their direct appointment program, which considers applicants who are already attorneys. The Navy holds two selection boards each year. The spring board evaluates all of the applications and the fall board looks exclusively at students. Fall and spring application deadlines are posted here.

Like the Coast Guard and Air Force, the Navy goes on campuses to do informational interviews. These on-campus interviews are not evaluative interviews to get into the JAG corps. A good thing about an informational interview is that applicants can ask any questions they actually want answers to.

As with the Air Force and Coast Guard, formal interviews must be conducted on a navy base. Whenever an applicant schedules a formal interview,  they will have two JAGs conduct a very formal, structured interview and will meet the person in a population center or on a Navy base. The closest Navy base to Notre Dame is Great Lakes Naval base, just north of Chicago.

The Navy has a 5-15% acceptance rate.

How do you apply for a summer internship or school-year externship with the Navy?

To apply for an internship, you must go on the website. The Navy offers both unpaid summer internships and school-year externships. You can intern at a Navy base overseas. The more open you are to interning in a wide variety of locations, the more likely your internship application is to be successful.

Image result for great lakes naval base

Great Lakes Naval Station is located just north of Chicago, which means that Notre Dame students can extern with the Navy during the semester through Notre Dame’s Law in Chicago program. Because of the Navy base’s unique proximity to Chicago, the Navy is the only military branch that Notre Dame students can extern with during the school-year. If you want to apply for a Chicago program externship with the Navy, contact me. To participate this fall, you must apply by June 9th.

If you extern with the Navy during the school year or intern with them over the summer, you have a good chance of getting chosen when applying for the JAG Corps. At the end of your summer internship or school-year externship, you will receive a letter of evaluation that you can then use to apply to the JAG corps.

What is the Navy looking for in candidates?

If you’re turned down the first time that you apply, keep applying. Leadership is huge. Running a journal, club, or showing any other kind of leadership experience really matters. Your application should show any kind of community commitment or commitment to something that is bigger than you.

You must commission into the Navy before your 42nd birthday.

If you’re interested in applying to the Navy, contact me and we can work together on crafting a great application.

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