Cart Before the Horse

Discussion in 'Publicly and Privately Funded Military Colleges' started by Lawman32RPD, Jan 31, 2011.

  1. Lawman32RPD

    Lawman32RPD Member

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    Our daughter is a senior in high school. She has applied to a number of colleges including VMI and Texas A&M (where she says she would join the Corps of Cadets). She has visited VMI twice and done the overnight. She has also visited A&M. Right now she is, of course, sweating which colleges will accept her. She is not a Texas resident. She lives in Virginia where I was on long term detail. I have returned to the border but as it was her senior year it didn't seem like the time to move so she and her mother and brother have remained in Northern Virginia. She has a 3.1 GPA, 27 Composite on the ACT; 1,890 combined best score on the SAT's; a number of 3's and 4's on various AP tests; Vice President of her class in Sophomore Year, and President in both Junior Year and Senior Year. She was selected to attend the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY); President of the Model UN club for a couple of years; Manger of the Varsity Football Team for three years, does "Throws" (Shotput) for Track.

    I don't have the requisite experience provide her with any substantive guidance on the following issue. She is 17 and inclined (perhaps we all are) to put the cart before the horse. Right now I think she is putting the cart several hundred yards before the horse.

    She wants to go to law school and subsequently be a JAG. She understands that if she went to VMI she'd take ROTC for four years, and if she went to A&M she'd take ROTC for the first two years - and then decide if she wanted to pursue a commission with the final two years of ROTC. She says that she should pursue a reserve commission and assignment - by that I mean an assignment with a Guard or Reserve unit rather than serve on active (full time) duty before going to law school. My advice to her has been to worry first about which schools she will attend; then decide if she wants to go to a SMC (assuming she is admitted to one); then decide if she wants to participate in an ROTC program assuming she didn't go to a SMC; then do well in college- and to worry about the rest of it as she gets a bit closer (which of course assumes she actually finishes high school too).

    In other words, she is 17 and while it is good to have a goal - there is no need to set her plans in concrete. I mean "life happens" and if you want to see the Almighty laugh, tell him your plans. I have told that right now she needs to see if this is a lifestyle and committment she is comfortable with assuming and the rest she can decide later when there is a need to actually decide something. Modesty prevents me from recounting her pithy response.

    I would certainly appreciate any guidance and counseling ya'll might be able to provide. I don't know enough about the various iterations of reserve status and committments, the ability to defer a service obligation in order to attend law school, and whatever other issues in my ignorance I have overlooked or don't know enough to ask the appropriate questions about.

    Please accept my thanks in advance for your attention and assistance.

    Respectfully:

    Lawman32RPD
     
  2. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Lawman- I'm not sure what guidance your daughter really needs from me here- it sounds like she has a lot of options and all of them seem plausible. As we both know- your dreams today may not look the same 4 years from now as circumstances change. with ROTC at VMI- if you haven't contracted and taken the money from a service, you haven't incurred an obligation so really you have a lot of flexibility to accomodate your plans as they mature or change.
    Heaven knows that there are enough Lawyers that graduate from VMI so that part is certainly achievable- I don't believe that I could count the number of my classmates at my lasst reunion who are in the profession. I believe that SPROG on this forum can give you plenty of thoughts about her career aspirations on that front.
    Bottom line- looking at her numbers below: I think that she will be a strong candidate at VMI as they are really trying hard to expand the number of female cadets in the Corps.
    Life is exciting at this stage, with lots of opportunities opening up-good luck to her and tell her to feel free - as are you to post any questions or thoughts that she might have about life at VMI.
     
  3. patentesq

    patentesq Parent

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    I'm an SMC alum who went to law school after my service obligation. My advice is that she should study hard as an undergraduate and get good grades. She should then serve her 4-year active duty commitment BEFORE applying to law school. This will benefit her in three critical ways: First, law school admissions officers LOVE active-duty military officers, so this will improve her chances for admission than simply going directly to law school from college. Second, when she enters law school, she will perform MUCH better (the "curve-busters" in law school are overwhelmingly those who have had a job for several years before law school). Third, her active-duty time will actually benefit her enormously when the time comes for her to apply for jobs AFTER law school. It doesn't matter which branch you are on active duty (I was Army Infantry). The law firm where I started my legal career (one of the largest "Wall Street" law firms in the world and one of the most selective in terms of hiring) actively seeks out military officers because they tend to be more responsible than someone without this experience (I ultimately became a partner at that firm and know this first-hand from a recruiting point of view).

    After law school, she can at that point re-enter the service if she wishes and go JAG. I did not go JAG but thought about doing so very seriously in the early days of my career (JAG officers are highly regarded in the civilian sector because they have first-chair trial experience very early on, while most newly minted lawyers in the civilian sector have been licking postage stamps for the first 5 years of practice).

    If you compare the credentials of someone who took this path in 10 years from now against someone who took a deferment, she will be MILES ahead. As lawyers like to put it, you'll simply have to "trust me."

    One other piece of advice regarding Reserves and law school. Your daughter should avoid ANY distractions in law school. When I was in law school, I spent my first year in the Reserves, and it was very hard. Law school is all about studying 24/7, and I ultimately decided to join the IRR because it was interferring with my studies (despite what my AROTC contract said about a 2-year Reserve component, this was permitted because the Army was downsizing at the time and actively permitting officers to serve their "Reserve time" in the IRR).

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2011
  4. sprog

    sprog Member

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    I'm an attorney who graduated from VMI; however, I did not serve in the JAG Corps during active duty. I was active USAF from 1999-2003 as a line officer (ICBM operations). I used GI Bill benefits along with my own savings to finance law school after graduation. While I had contemplated returning to active duty after law school, I quite honestly didn't feel that being back in the service was something that interested me after I got my JD. I work as a government attorney as a civilian now, and it's working out pretty well for me.

    VMI requires participation in ROTC for all four years; however, it does not require the cadet to take a commission. If I'm honest, I think it is best not to commission as a line officer with intentions of going to law school if you really don't want to be a line officer. The Air Force (and I assume other services) has a program called the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP) that allows O-2s and above to attend law school on the Air Force. It is a very competitive program, and there aren't that many selections made for it on an annual basis. I had a guy at my missile base who got picked up for it a year before I separated, and I knew a dude at law school who was there on the program. I think there are maybe 10 or so officers selected each year. It is much easier to be picked up as a JAG if you already have your law school and bar admission behind you. Thus, if you went to an SMC, the ideal path would be not taking a commission out of undergraduate school, then going to law school, and applying once you are already a 2L or a 3L. The individual services have info on the specifics, but I think it is easier to become a JAG as a civilian in law school than it is to get the military to send you as an active duty line officer.

    It might be tempting to make a parallel to medical school/physicians with regards to JAG recruiting, and this is not accurate. The law is a saturated profession, and save for the small FLEP program (or whatever it is in the other services), the military doesn't really give scholarships for law school. Some branches (Army) will help pay back loans, but others will not. There are plenty of applicants for JAG positions, and they can be choosy as to who they want. This could change as the economy improves, but there will always be a ton of attorneys out there.

    If she really wants to be a JAG, and that is the only way she'll be happy, then I'd advise against taking a line officer commission, and tell her to go straight to law school. Use loans to finance it (most everyone does). She should go to the best law school where she get gain acceptance, and should strive to make good grades and get selected for law review and/or moot court board/teams. Once in law school, she should reach out to the JAG recruiters.

    If she wants to serve in the military as an officer in any capacity, then it's great to pursue a line officer commission out of ROTC at an SMC. I did it, but I didn't really start even thinking about law school until two or three years into active service. I really wanted to be a civilian attorney, anyway, and using GI Bill and my savings from my service time helped me finish law school with no debt. Other than a passing interest, though, I can't say I was truly into being a JAG. That was just me.

    One last note. Despite Donald Bellasario's assertions, JAG officers write wills, handle claims against the base, and counsel/represent servicemembers and the government in military justice matters. This is usually DUI/simple drug possession stuff. The murder trials are not a weekly event like on TV, and JAGs do not typically fly fighter jets and jump out of airplanes. Mr. Bellasario's Quantum Leap is one of my favorite shows ever, but his JAG isn't a representation of the real life of an attorney in the service. Just had to get that out there.

    There are other attorneys on the forums, and usna1985 is a USNA Grad who went to law school after service. She may have better insight into the Navy's programs. Unfortunately, I can't think of anyone who has been a JAG that posts on here; however, I can answer questions about law school, the bar exam, etc. if you have them.

    Best of luck
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2011
  5. patentesq

    patentesq Parent

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    We obviously have different views on this, sprog. Recognizing that everyone's situation is different, I know for a fact that I would not be where I am today without my active duty "front-line" experience before law school. After law school, I applied for a clerkship with a United States Circuit Judge, and there were over 1200 applications for a single slot. The only reason my resume floated to the top of the pile was that I was an Infantry officer, and the Judge was an Infantry officer in World War II. I have also seen how the elite civilian law firms recruit law students, and I know that they highly regard active-duty officer experience. Finally, as a "front-line" Infantry guy, I have drawn on my experience from active duty on regular basis -- I take a "Stormin' Normin" approach to every litigation matter, and this has worked for me for many, many years. At the end of the day, I also feel like I've "done my part" in terms of service to our nation by being a "front-line" guy.
     
  6. sprog

    sprog Member

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    I don't disagree that military experience can help you get a civilian attorney position out of law school. It can help (it obviously helped patentesq), but it doesn't necessarily help. I doubt there are many federal judges who served in WWII still on the bench, and since there hasn't been a draft since 1973, the amount of attorneys/judges with military experience is much smaller than in years past. I work for the federal government, and am one of a handful of veterans in my specific agency. This isn't what the thread is really about, though.

    The OP's daughter wants to be a JAG officer, and I'm not sure she has an interest in serving as a line officer. For that type of person, I think they should look into joining the service once in law school. As an active duty line officer, it is difficult to get the military to pay for legal education, as they can get plenty of JAGs without having to flip the bill. Thus, if you really want to be a JAG, I think it's best to wait.

    If, however, the OP's daughter is like patentesq and myself (wants to serve as a line officer), then by all means, take a commission out of ROTC. Realize that under this path, you will most likely have to separate from active duty to go to law school. The FLEP (and other service programs) are highly competitive, and while it's possible to get the service to pay, the odds are against you. For someone whose ambition is solely JAG, I just don't think it's good advice to tell them to go into the line ranks via ROTC. Now, if someone just wants military experience, and then wants law school as a civilian, I'm right with patentesq. It can't hurt.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2011

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