Working as a Navy JAG: An Interview with LT. Lindsay McCarl

I attended the NALP 2018 conference back in April and was sitting at a table having breakfast when I struck up a conference with Lieutenant Lindsay McCarl, who heads recruiting for Navy JAG. Lindsay graciously agreed to chat with me about her career path and what life is like as a JAG and we got the chance to talk in May.

KMB: Tell me about your background

LM: I’m actually an engineer. I worked for Northrop Grumman for three of years as an engineer and got the bug to go to law school while I was working there. At Northrop Grumman I was working with active duty personnel and wanted to be more directly involved with service members and their families so I decided to go to law school, I went to University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, near where I grew up. I crashed with my parents during law school to save money. While in law school, I focused on veteran’s issues and military law.

KMB: So you knew exactly what you wanted to do! Did you intern for organizations specializing in veteran’s issues during law school? 

LM: Yes. My 1L summer, I worked for the Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims in DC and then I worked for the Board of Veteran Appeals my 2L summer. By 2L summer, I already had my job lined up so I chose to do work that was personally enriching. I also externed with Air Force JAG during the fall of my 2L year.

KMB: How did you end up getting into Navy JAG?

LM: I applied for the Navy JAG Corps the first semester of my second year of law school and so did my husband. We both got accepted together. I commissioned May of my 2L year.

KMB: What made you choose the Navy over other branches?

LM: The Navy more than the other branches had a great reputation for keeping married JAGs together. In many branches, staying together while you both are active duty is extremely difficult over the entire course of one’s career. We liked the geographic location opportunities that the Navy offered. My husband grew up in the Annapolis area, where the Naval Academy is located, so he had this reverence for the Navy.

KMB: What is it like when you first join JAG?

LM: After taking the bar, I had few months off before officer development school in Rhode Island. After that, I had a two month wait until the Basic Lawyering course, which is our 9-10 week training program. I went to Norfolk, VA for my first tour and I was there for 26 months.

KMB: What was that first tour in Norfolk like?

LM: I spent my first six months in trial, assisting a prosecutor, then the next 6 months in legal assistance, and then the following 6 months as a defense attorney for sailors being administratively separated from the Navy.  My last few months, I was in command services where I was a Staff Judge Advocate for a commanding officer.

KMB: Which rotation was your favorite?

LM: I enjoyed my defense rotation the most even though I was not really looking forward to it. I got to hone my oral advocacy skills although there are no rules of evidence in those proceedings so it is kind of like the wild west.

KMB: Where did you go after Norfolk?

LM: Guam. I was the main legal assistance attorney on the island for the Navy and I provided some command services to various commands in Guam. I was giving advice to commanding officers. My husband was in Guam as well and was assigned to a ship so he deployed while we were stationed in Guam. We were there for two years.

KMB: What kind of advice do you give to commanding officers?

LM: I helped one commanding officer with an ethics issue. The issue was whether they were allowed to give Navy ballcaps out when they deployed. Another issue I advised on was could the boy scouts on the island come to base and do fundraising efforts?

KMB: How did you like Guam?

LM: On base was one of the most beautiful beaches on the island but the humidity was definitely intense.

KMB: Where did you go after Guam?

LM: Now, I am stationed here in D.C. My job title is “Special Assistant for Recruiting” so I manage recruiting programs and policies for the entire JAG corps. I answer recruiting questions and I am in charge of the Navy’s internship and externship programs.

KMB: How is being a parent and being in the Navy?

LM: One of the things we like about the Navy is the work/life balance. Moving every two or three years can be tough on the kids but I work 40-50 hours a week. I get to go home and see my kids every night. I spend every weekend with them. Not a lot of lawyers can say that.

The Navy is very friendly for families. My second pregnancy was a high risk pregnancy and I had to spend three months in a Naval hospital in Okinawa, Japan. I didn’t have to take any leave during that time and got 18 weeks of maternity leave. The current maternity leave policy is 12 full weeks. The Navy also has a paternity leave policy where the active duty spouse gets ten days.

KMB: What do you want applicants to know about Navy recruiting?

LM: We are continuously updating the recruiting website and we want to be as transparent as possible. If anyone has questions, they can contact me and I am happy to put people in touch with Navy JAGC officers who are near where they are.

Also, we’re really trying to grow our internship and externship programs. Our fall externship placements have tripled. Getting a Navy externship is way less competitive than getting an internship so it is a great way to get experience.

KMB: What are some common mistakes that JAG applicants make?

LM: Not paying close attention to requirements and failing to submit all the required documents. We require a full length, head to toe photo and people will send a headshot or a picture that stops at their torso. Sometimes people do not follow through and get their interview completed. It is vitally important that your application be typo free.

KMB: What are some things you really like to see in an applicant?

LM: Leadership positions, dedication to continued physical fitness, moot court, mock trial, and community service. A lot of things show a commitment to public service. You don’t have to intern with the Navy although that does help because you get a confidential evaluation at the end of your internship. An Air Force JAG or Army JAG internship shows a commitment to service as does working for the District Attorney. We have one intern now who is a full-time teacher and that says to us that she is committed to public service.

If you want to get in touch with Lindsay, reach out to me and I will put you in touch with her.

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