Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Opinions

Hey JDU: Wanted to see everyone's opinions: --I'm curr dilemma201801/04/18
You'll make less money and possibly need to move every few y thirdtierlaw01/04/18
Never leave your current job. Ever. You literally have what shikes01/04/18
I did the opposite-started JAG then went to be a prosecutor, toooldtocare01/05/18
Appreciate everyones perspectives! Honestly, I just did/do dilemma201801/05/18
No personal experience in Reserves. A friend of mine was AD toooldtocare01/05/18
Thank you so much for that insight and detail--It is so hard dilemma201801/05/18
Also--why did you not like the years of defense? dilemma201801/08/18
Hi. I'm a govt. atty. and joined the Army Reserve as JAG off porochi01/08/18
Thanks, Porochi! Interesting--so you were a Reservist but dilemma201801/08/18
Question for OP. Are you concerned at all that since you are tacocheese01/09/18
Thats definitely a legit concern--A lot of it depends on how dilemma201801/09/18
Hey all: First off, thanks for all the input/opinions--I dilemma201801/12/18
dilemma2018 (Jan 4, 2018 - 2:07 pm)

Hey JDU:

Wanted to see everyone's opinions:

--I'm currently a DA in a large office making 6 figures in a leadership role. In law school the two paths I considered was joining a DA's Office and pursuing JAG.
I know there are probably a ton of posts discussing JAG but wanted to start a clean thread and see what people who had experience or insight into the actuals Pros/Cons of leaving to join Active Duty (I know its competitive but feel I have a really strong resume), the Pros/Cons of an 8 Year commitment in Reserves/National Guard or just shelve it.
I'm really interested to see what people think--also, I have a house and am not married so wanted to see if those factors impacted opinions.

Thanks all!

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thirdtierlaw (Jan 4, 2018 - 2:30 pm)

You'll make less money and possibly need to move every few years. And if we end up in another war, they can send you overseas for 6months to a year at a time. You are gaining more transferable skills at the DA's office and I suspect that the benefits/pension is at the very least equal if not better.

I have no idea why you'd leave where you currently are to pursue JAG.

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shikes (Jan 4, 2018 - 9:31 pm)

Never leave your current job. Ever. You literally have what 99% of attorneys, including myself, dream of.

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toooldtocare (Jan 5, 2018 - 9:57 am)

I did the opposite-started JAG then went to be a prosecutor, so I have to ask: why do you want to do this? More information is needed. As noted above, you'd take a significant cut in pay, be required to move every three years(or more; in my four years I moved three times), and would be subject to being stationed in a war zone.

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dilemma2018 (Jan 5, 2018 - 12:40 pm)

Appreciate everyones perspectives!
Honestly, I just did/do not want to have any regrets about not trying something--

Toooldtocare: How was your AD experience vs your prosecutor experience? Also any thoughts on Reserves?

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toooldtocare (Jan 5, 2018 - 1:16 pm)

No personal experience in Reserves. A friend of mine was AD then went Reserves; got his 20 in and is now retired. He enjoyed his experience. However, note that he was called to AD during the war, and apparently many-if not all-reservists served on AD at some point. It wasn't a big problem for him job-wise, as he was a federal employee BUT he was gone from his family for months. And some might like that, but he didn't. He was actually sent to the war zone; other reservists served in the US or Europe, taking the place of AD sent to the war zone. So before you sign up for the reserves, make sure your full time job is safe. Yes, there are laws meant to protect reservists called to active duty, but there are plenty of unscrupulous employers. At one point, I worked for a state agency and one of our guys did regular reservist duty. The boss complained all the time about this to anyone who would listen. Sure he kept his job, but he got hammered at evaluation time(and no, there was no mention of his reservist duty as reasons for the poor eval).

JAG can be interesting or not; I was a prosecutor most of my time on AD, although I did spend a year as full time defense counsel. I didn't like that job, but I learned a lot. The prosecution experience worked out well for me, as I then segued into a civilian prosecutor job. But I can't imagine doing claims all day, and my experience was that you got your first assignment by luck.

But the pay was truly terrible(my understanding is it's better now, but still nowhere near six figures for a new JAG). And moving on a regular basis wasn't for me. My experience-three moves in four years-is a bit unusual, but everybody seemed to move every three years or sooner. The number #1 sign you were going to be invited to leave was not getting transferred.

Anyway, moving regularly wasn't something I or my spouse wanted, so I left.

Why would you regret not "trying something"? Do you like your current job? Are you settled in your community? Can you afford the cut in pay-and if you're making six figures in a DA's office, you're up the ladder-can you take the cut in status? You'd be starting as a new JAG.

And remember it's the military; this wasn't a problem for me as I had a pretty good understanding of what I was getting into. Some of my fellow JAGs didn't, and were miserable. One guy didn't understand why he had to wear his uniform and salute people. Others couldn't resist smoking dope. These folks didn't finish the four years.

Just keep in mind one thing: you're in the military. Make sure you totally understand all that entails.

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dilemma2018 (Jan 5, 2018 - 2:11 pm)

Thank you so much for that insight and detail--It is so hard to find out exactly what life in JAG is TRULY like whether AD or Reserves. Honestly, I am extremely settled in here both professionally and personally. In addition to being a DA, I also am an adjunct professor which is a lot of fun.
I actually met with JAG recruiters as a 3L, and it was the frequent moving that didn't really sounds appealing at the time (or now given I own a house). Hmmmm as far as Reserves, I could definitely see the drawbacks there with even the most understanding employers. Also, that would be an odd experience--to be "deployed" away from home but still in the United States essentially backfilling for overseas deployed AD.
As I understand it, it is an 8 year commitment so I know for me, if I was deployed either domestically or internationally, my Office would certainly not pay my current salary even though they are required to keep my slot open I suppose. Not to mention the logistics of having someone care for your house etc.....

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dilemma2018 (Jan 8, 2018 - 4:57 pm)

Also--why did you not like the years of defense?

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porochi (Jan 8, 2018 - 4:11 pm)

Hi. I'm a govt. atty. and joined the Army Reserve as JAG officer in 2003, got out in 2013. I worked both my civilian atty. position and USAR JAG position simultaneously for 11 years without a problem. I served a few short stints on Active Duty as a JAG officer, primarily filling in with JAG offices at various Army Posts around the country. I liked the JAG work, but as a Reservist I primarily found myself filling in with the Legal Assistance shops when on Active Duty, basically it's the Army's version of a Legal Aid clinic, lots of family law, landlord/tenant disputes and consumer law advice. If you really want to experience the full gamut of JAG life you'll need to go Active, but you can still do that as a Reservist, you'd have to mobilize for up to a year, or more, to get a crack at the full variety of legal work being a JAG presents.

I'm a former prosecutor and often found myself serving as a Recorder (aka prosecutor) in administrative separation boards or as a legal advisor to such boards, that's the closest I got to actual courts martial experience while a JAG. But I didn't care, I spent 6 years as a civilian prosecutor trying everything from traffic cases to homicides so I didn't need (or want) more court time as a JAG.

Bottom line, getting an Active duty JAG commission is very tough, and very competitive these days. Reserve Commissions, with the Army anyway, are not quite as hard to get, but, don't be fooled, those are very competitive as well.

I say go for it, but if you want to get the full Monty as a JAG officer, either mobilize once you get the Reserve JA commission or try for an Active Duty slot. Back when I got in (at age 34) I needed an age waiver, 32 (or was it 33?) was the max age at the time, but getting the age waiver wasn't a problem for me, as I was barely over the max age anyway.

It was a fun ride being a Reserve JA but I felt I never really got the chance to experience what it is like to be an Active Duty JA because the vast majority of my time was spent with a Reserve unit. For a variety of reasons, too lengthy to expound on here, Reserve JAG's don't get much Military Justice experience (UCMJ work), need to be on Active Duty to get that experience. And MJ work (a la Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men) is the bread and butter of JAG existence.

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dilemma2018 (Jan 8, 2018 - 4:53 pm)

Thanks, Porochi!

Interesting--so you were a Reservist but spent some time deployed as Active to bases for the Active Duty JA's to deploy overseas--makes sense! Did you employer have any issue with you doing that, and was there much of a salary gap?
Also, did that experience ever make you want to go AD full-time?

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tacocheese (Jan 9, 2018 - 9:21 am)

Question for OP. Are you concerned at all that since you are in a leadership role that a new DA could fire you mid or late career? That happened in my local DA office. I've heard people say that being a DA is a good career but you never want to get too close to the sun.

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dilemma2018 (Jan 9, 2018 - 10:42 am)

Thats definitely a legit concern--A lot of it depends on how large the Office you are is since smaller ones offer less insulation. Also, it is a lot about establishing personal connections across a wide spectrum so that if there is a change of administration, you can ride it out. Im actually at a very large Office--one thing Im still amazed at is how tightly knit legal communities can be so I tell younger attys be classy and professional with everyone and build a solid reputation.

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dilemma2018 (Jan 12, 2018 - 5:58 pm)

Hey all:

First off, thanks for all the input/opinions--I like that aspect of this site.
Second, a friend of mine happened to meet a current Active Duty JA in the airport and got their card to pass on to me so I wrote the guy. He wrote me back a huge response about being in Active Duty JAG which he joined at 37 after deciding he was tired of insurance defense and med-mal.
Highlights of what he said mirrored what many of you all said:
--It can be a very interesting/diverse pathway, HOWEVER, plan on moving bases every 1-2 years. He implied he had been in approximately 8 years and had lived in Oklahoma, Georgia, deployed, and now Colorado.
--He had done a little of everything and is currently in a special victims counsel role for sex assault victims.

While his assignments sound interesting, I do not like the idea of packing up and moving all around the US or world every year or two (I know some people would love that but not me--I like stability and my own house).

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