Legal Quandary

Monday, February 25, 2008

And Another Thing....

Please send all your good vibes this way for Mr. Q. He's got a big day tomorrow!



Sorry for not posting earlier - I've been out of town the last few days (which also explains my lack of Scramble-playing...)

Mr. Q's Big Day (aka his Thesis Defense) went GREAT! He's just making minor edits to the written portion now, but other than that, he's DONE!!!

When he finally graduates, it'll mark the first time in nearly five years that one of us hasn't been enrolled in some sort of higher education program. Time for a little vacation...if we can only find the time!!!

More Answers

To more of your questions. (Keep them coming! The more YOU write, the more I write...) As always, I need to remind you that these are just LQ's impressions and are NOT the official position of the Air Force or the JAG corps. Even so, I hope you find the answers helpful.

At the poster's request, I've redacted his name and personal information.

How competitive is AF Jag admission? I'm 1st in the 2L class at a school somewhere on the West Coast....but it's no Yale :).

Is AF JAG less time-intensive than private practice? That's a selling point that all the JAG programs seem to advertise, but is it really true?

Are AF JAGs given more responsibility immediately as first-year lawyers than in private practice?

Does a 4-8 year JAG career lend well to moving into private practice later? In other words, if I don't go career, will I be at a disadvantage?

How competitive is AF JAG Admission? Although I can't give you hard numbers, selection is actually fairly competitive. I would estimate that my SJA interviews about a dozen people for every Direct Appointment board. Of that dozen, one to two might get selected for the first board they meet. Some offices interview more applicants, some substantially fewer. The DAP boards meet every other month and if you are not selected the first time, your package will automatically go forward to the next board. If you're not selected the second time around, you'll have to re-apply.

What can you do to help your chances of selection? Well, good grades obviously help, as do Law Review and Moot Court. Prior successful military service is also a huge bonus, but if you have other interesting work, academic, or volunteer experience, be sure to talk about that at your interview! Since you'll also be submitting a photo to the board as well as meeting with an SJA, try to be within the AF weight standards before your interview.

A few interview tips. Although it should go without saying for aspiring attorneys - wear a suit to your interview! Gentlemen should get their hair cut, and ladies should make sure their hair looks professional. You'll probably meet with one of the Captains in the office either before or after meeting with the SJA who will conduct your interview and review your paperwork with you. Listen to what they have to say and ask questions. For example. How long have they been in? What's been their best experience? Have they deployed and what was it like? It also never hurts to ask for their phone number or email address so you can ask follow up questions (or send them an email thanking them for their time!) When you meet with the SJA, be prepared to talk about why you want to be an attorney/what drew you to the law and why you think you'd like to be a JAG. What do you think it means to serve? Also know that you'll likely be asked about your willingness to deploy - and if your answer is that you'd rather not, perhaps the JAG corps is not for you. Use the interview as an opportunity to gather information as well - DON'T assume you know everything and for the love of Pete DON'T interrupt the SJA when they're talking to you.

Oh...and be nice to the staff. You'd be amazed at the number of people who are rude to the folks at the front desk when calling or coming in for interviews. Remember that the person interviewing you probably talks to the other people in his or her office.

Is AF JAG less time-intensive than private practice
I've never been in private practice, so I can't truly compare the two, but I'll give you my impressions. I think the JAG corps has less of an expectation that you work 60 or 80 hours a week, and more of an expectation that you complete the mission. If it only takes you 40 hours a week to do that, good for you! Obviously there will be times when you're prepping for trial or working an exercise where you will put in crazy hours, but for the most part, we tend to work fairly normal hours, even if it ends up being a bit more than the "typical" 40 hour workweek. Unless I have a trial or other large project, I generally work from 730 AM until 5 or 6 PM, though I'll sometimes bring work home with me to be able to leave at a decent hour. Other offices might be very different.

I find that I have a lot of flexibility in scheduling my work, which is important to me. One of the other huge benefits of the JAG corps is that I also get time for Physical Training every week. Since we're required to pass a PT test every year, most offices are pretty good about giving time for exercise, and many offices get together for fun group PT activities like ultimate frisbee or basketball. One of the other very substantial benefits is that you'll probably never have to worry about getting enough CLE credits. Between JASOC and other training courses, I practically quadrupled my CLE requirements the first year I was in.

Are AF JAGs given more responsibility immediately as first-year lawyers than in private practice? Again, I've never been in private practice, so I can't say whether the level of responsibility I have is more or less than it would be in private practice, but I can tell you about some of the experiences I've had so far. My initial inclination would be to say that JAGs ARE given a great deal more responsibility off the bat - and that's a sword which can cut both ways.

A large part of my first year was spent in training. 3 months at JASOC and approximately 5 weeks at various other training courses. Other than that in my first year, I:
- Acted as Government Trial Counsel for courts-martial
- Taught classes on the Military Justice process and basic officership.
- Reviewed hundreds of documents for legal sufficiency.
- Saw hundreds of Legal Assistance clients and drafted at least a hundred wills - many on short notice.
- Personally advised the Base Commander (typically a Colonel or 1 Star) on various issues.
- Prosecuted a number of civilians in Federal Magistrate Court.

Does a 4-8 year JAG career lend well to moving into private practice later? In other words, if I don't go career, will I be at a disadvantage? I have to admit I don't really know the answer to this question. I would say a lot probably depends on what you want to do in private practice. I've heard that people who want to do trial work sometimes have a harder time transitioning to the outside because the military justice system is just so different. On the other hand, I know several people who have landed amazing jobs with private law firms BECAUSE of their extensive trial experience. I get the impression that people with Government Contracts experience will never go hungry. I also know plenty of people who have transitioned from Active Duty to Reserves, and who have good jobs with various courts and federal agencies. I think many JAGs tend to go into other federal service just because that's what the JAG corps prepares you for, but that isn't to say that private firms wouldn't be interested as well.

Feel free to post follow-up questions!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mail Call!

An Anonymous Poster asks the following questions about husbands and pets:

My husband (an accountant) would like to continue to have a professional life, how difficult is it for JAG spouses to have civilian careers considering that they also have to pack up and move with you every 2-3 years? I really don't want him to end up dragging him to strange places where he will have to sit at home all day and watch paint dry...

My pet (a dog) is pretty easygoing as long as we're around but I know that some countries have restrictions on importing pets and impose quarantine requirements. It sounds cheesy but dog is definitely a member of our family and quarantining her for 2 months in a strange European kennel would be like quarantining a child (ok, not that bad, but close). Regardless, the whole quarantine thing is expensive and I don't expect to be rolling in the dough working for JAG. So, do JAGs have pets? Does the AF try to send you places where it's possible to bring your entire family (including dogs)? (Note - coincidentally I adopted dog from a rescue that found her abandoned on a military base, so that's prety much my worst fear, that she'd be abandoned or lost again b/c I was transferred somewhere strange.)

Let's deal with the husband question first. This is sort of a tough one because it all sort of depends on your husband's field. Let me say up front that I know absolutely zero about how the accounting world works. While it would seem to me that an accountant would be able to work almost anywhere, you (and your husband) are likely to know more about whether this is the case, and whether it's possible to have any sort of upward mobility if you're switching jobs every few years. I would ask around in the accounting world to get a feel for this. You could also check what kind of career opportunities some of the larger defense contractors have for accountants - you might be able to find a company with multiple locations, so that your husband could move with you AND stay with the same company for more than 3 years. I've known several AF wives who have been able to make this sort of arrangement work. A couple of them have even been able to continue working from home when the company didn't have locations near their husband's base.

Civil service might be another option for your husband. You can find out what jobs are available at A lot will depend on your husband's background and experience level. I believe that military spouses are usually given a higher priority for hiring. In the interest of full disclosure, I also have a friend stationed at a small base in Japan, whose husband has extensive business experience and an MBA. He's currently working at the Hobby Shop on base, and is fond of saying he's the most highly educated picture framer in the Air Force. (That said, I'm pretty sure he's also taking and teaching classes, really likes his job, and loves living overseas.)

Most of the married JAGs I know have spouses who are either 1) other military members, or 2) stay-at-home parents. That isn't to say that military spouses aren't able to have careers - some are quite successful - but the reality is that there's a certain amount of sacrifice to make it work. Of course the same is true of the "mil-to-mil" couples, where one spouse's career usually takes priority over the other's.

As for your pet question - LOTS (most?) of us have pets! I have two cats. Another JAG in my office has two dogs. Many of our paralegals have various pets. My boss has two dogs and a cat but I think she'd have an entire menagerie if her husband would only let her! My friend in Japan has 2 dogs but I think she did have to go through a fairly extensive quarantine process to get them there. Even though the Air Force does ask for your input for assignments via your "dream sheet," there's not really any sort of emphasis on being able to bring your whole family. Keep in mind that as long as we have bases in Korea, England, and Japan, there will have to be JAGs at those bases, so ultimately, it will come down to the "needs of the Air Force." Most times you'll be able to be assigned with your family (human and furry members), but there may be times you won't. Overseas assignments aren't really as common as they used to be, but at least for Korea, you probably won't be able to bring your husband either.

Hope this helps - feel free to write back if you need more clarification on either of these questions!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In Other News...

I finally seccumbed...and set up a Facebook account. Which, I have to admit, is just as addictive as Blogger was initially. Plus my whole family seems to be on it. (And THANKS to all of you for not inviting ME, I might add....)

If you're one of my friends and haven't already been spammed on the basis of your email address being in my address book, drop me a line and I'll add you to my "friends" list.

LQ Answers the Mail

An Anonymous poster asked the following question:

For the GLP, what $3,000 incentive were you talking about?? I have never heard or read anywhere that allows you to get a 3k incentive. If you point me to the direction of where you found this information, I would greatly appreciate it. I am currently considering applying for the GLP.

If you take a look at the governing instruction, AFI 51-101, you'll see that paragraph 5.2.1 states:

Cadets in the Graduate Law Program are eligible for a monthly stipend and students under 30 years of age may also be eligible for a Professional Officer Course Incentive (POCI) of $3,000 for each academic year.

Note that the AFI says "may" be eligible - but it's always worth asking the question! Hope this helps!

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Why do people presume they know my kids and my situation better than I do?

It's been about 2 years since Mr. Q and I purchased our current cell phones. Since they weren't exactly "high tech" to begin with, this means they're pretty dated. We've been batting around the idea of switching service providers, but are running into a roadblock with keeping our old cell numbers. Yes, there's a law that says you're supposed to be able to switch cell phone providers without losing your number but there's a hitch.

Wireless local number portability (WLNP) allows wireless subscribers to change service providers within a given location while retaining the same phone number. Wireless consumers who wish to port their phone number must contact the prospective new carrier, who will start the process of porting by contacting the consumer's current carrier. (From the FCC's Page)

Therein lies the rub. Our numbers are in an area code that's 2000 miles away - and although everyone assures me that they could START service within that area code, I get mixed responses as to whether I'd be able to keep the number I already have.

Anyway, I went in and talked to a rep for our current service provider, who looked at my phone and assured me that it was a big part of why I sort of hate CSP. So she just about had me sold on a new PDA/phone, when she noticed EC. And she asked whether EC had a phone. I laughed and said no, because I'm a firm believer that 13 year olds should NOT have cellphones. Then the rep launched into this pitch about how cell phones are great when kids have "extracurricular activities" and how "you can limit their calling" and such.

I'm still 110% certain that EC is not getting a cell phone. She is involved in several extracurricular activities, but there are landlines anywhere she's likely to be. I know two of her friends have recently gotten cell phones, and one of them complains that the other is constantly texting her - most recently at 2am. It just irks me that a total stranger would seriously try to convince me that my child needs what amounts to an expensive toy even after I made it perfectly clear that there was no chance in hell she was getting one.

Also, based on EC's abysmal performance on her last couple of Geometry tests, I'm not certain she can be trusted with a radio - let alone a piece of equipment which both receives and transmits.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Mr. Q even brought Chinese food home for dinner tonight!

I swore off fast food for Lent this year, so I'm going to tell myself that any place without a drive-through doesn't count as fast food. Let's hope God agrees.

Some Days Work Feels A Lot Like Law School

I'm seriously considering carrying a backpack to work. You know, for all my homework.

Tonight I came home with a 7 inch (yes, I measured) stack consisting of 2 binders, 5 documents to be reviewed, and a book. OK, so the book was the FAR and accounts for an inch and a half on its own, but still...

It feels like I'm always schlepping heavy stacks of stuff around. Part of the problem is that I work in a different building than most of my co-workers, so if I want to discuss a case with my boss or one of my colleagues, I have to carry all my papers with me. The other part is that even when I'm at my most productive at work, there's still plenty left to do, so I end up bringing work home at least a couple days every week.

Somehow I thought these days were over once I graduated from law school. Or at least when I finished JASOC. The sad part is that I have a very nice briefcase - but my stuff won't all fit in it! (Also, carrying a briefcase in BDU's makes you look like a complete tool.)