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What does a Marine Corps JAG do?

T. Briseno
T. Briseno

A United States Marine Corps (USMC) Judge Advocate General (JAG) performs legal activities on behalf of the Marines. People who become part of the Marine Corps JAG are trained lawyers in addition to being enlisted officers. Marine Corps JAG are formally known as Judge Advocates but are commonly referred to as JAG lawyers. Their representation may include military-specific cases, such as courts-martial, or it can involve personal legal counsel to fellow servicemen and women.

Generally, a Marine Corps JAG is charged with the responsibility of acting as both a prosecuting attorney and a defense attorney in civil and military matters. JAG lawyers may be asked to draw up a Last Will and Testament for a Private stationed in the United States (US), or they can be dispatched to provide defense for orders given by a high-ranking officer during wartime. Establishing legality in contracts and code enforcement is an additional responsibility.

A JAG lawyer may be responsible for drawing up a soldier's last will and testament.
A JAG lawyer may be responsible for drawing up a soldier's last will and testament.

While representing the US as Marines, JAG members must first fulfill the duties assigned for the rank they have achieved within the USMC. Obtaining a legal degree and certification are additional requirements for serving the Marine Corps JAG. Education requirements can be met while enlisted, and JAG activities can be performed as student Marines are preparing for the bar examination in the state where they are stationed. Some members are practicing attorneys before applying and enlisting in the USMC.

Marine Corps JAG lawyers must be knowledgeable in both military law and US civil law. They apply the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) in cases related to violations within the ruling codes of conduct and affairs of the USMC. An appointed Marine Corp JAG lawyer, or Judge Advocate, administers the law within the oversight of the Judge Advocate Division (JAD) and within the UCMJ. All legal activities and ascension in rank are supervised by the US Military.

Though some civil lawyers study and practice law to specialize in one area, becoming a Marine Corps JAG may lead to a diverse range of assignments. Individuals chosen for commissioning as JAG officers can likely expect to complete administrative tasks, advise fellow officers and superiors on proper procedure, work to ensure the best practices in conflict arenas, and come alongside Marine families in need of household legal counsel. Competition for JAG positions is often high, and day-to-day work can be more humble than high-profile. People who choose to serve as US Marines and as Marine Corps JAG lawyers, however, will be serving both client and country.

Discussion Comments


The author of this article has about 50% of the information correct. Marine lawyers - JAG - are all commissioned officers. They do not enlist (the enlisted to commissioned officer path is a separate conversation).

Marine lawyers can be assigned to many different types of units, from base/stations on the legal staff, to a Marine Expeditionary Unit deploying on ships. The work at a legal base staff is likely more traditional, whereas being the legal officer for an operational unit will bring you into law or war, rules of engagement, international law (when visiting other countries).

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    • A JAG lawyer may be responsible for drawing up a soldier's last will and testament.
      By: nito
      A JAG lawyer may be responsible for drawing up a soldier's last will and testament.