Soon after becoming a Marine Corps Judge Advocate, you will be given the responsibilities of maintaining your own caseload and advising Marines on legal issues. Additionally, the training you receive as a Marine Corps Officer will prepare you to be a leader, both inside the courtroom and out. While most new, civilian attorneys are relegated to research duty on cases tried by others, you will be building your courtroom skills and acquiring extensive legal experience in a shorter time frame. As a prosecutor or defense counsel, you will be responsible for assembling, preparing and litigating cases while working closely with internal law enforcement organizations, such as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Opportunities for Marine Corps Judge Advocates are detailed in the video above. The three most common areas of practice for first-term judge advocates include the following:
- Criminal Litigation
Soon after becoming judge advocates, Marine Officers begin managing their own cases as prosecutors or defense counsel, and they are relied upon by commanders to provide advice on appropriate courses of action throughout the duration of criminal proceedings.
- Operational and International Law
Judge advocates in this area of law have many responsibilities, including educating Marines and sailors on the requirements of international treaties and agreements that comprise the Law of Armed Conflict. In time of war, judge advocates deploy with operational units and provide essential legal services to commanders, deployed Marines and other service members. They also advise commanders on matters such as the rules of engagement, Law of War and detention operations.
- Civil Law
Judge advocates are also responsible for helping Marines with their civil legal needs. Judge advocates assist Marines with legal matters involving estate planning, immigration and naturalization law, family law, landlord-tenant law, state and federal income tax and consumer protection. Judge advocates also assist with the Marine Corps' multi-billion dollar procurement of technologies and supplies and help represent the interests of the United States across a broad range of tort issues.
Pathways To a Calling
There is a distinct pride that comes with becoming, as well as being, an officer of Marines. As a Marine Corps Judge Advocate, you will develop and hone leadership skills that have been tried and proven in every conflict—and every courtroom—our nation has seen. The path to becoming a Marine Officer begins at OCS, and the journey is intentionally rigorous, designed to test and evaluate your leadership skills, academic abilities and physical fitness. The paths for beginning this challenging and rewarding journey are the Platoon Leaders Class-Law and the Officer Candidate Course-Law.
To be eligible for PLC-Law, an applicant must be a college senior who has been accepted into an ABA-accredited law school or must already be in the first or second year of law school. To learn more, click here and download the PLC-Law Pathway PDF*.
Applicants who have already graduated from law school and have received their license to practice law are eligible to seek a commission through the OCC-Law program. To learn more, click here and download the OCC-Law Pathway PDF*.
Within the MAGTF
Within the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), Judge Advocates are members of the Command Element (CE). As part of the CE, Judge Advocates work in close conjunction with the other three elements of the MAGTF - the Aviation Command Element (ACE), the Logistics Combat Element (LCE) and the Ground Combat Element (GCE) to help accomplish the mission.
Beyond Your First Tour
In the Marine Corps, there are many types of cases, many types of courtrooms and many opportunities for advancement as a Marine Corps Judge Advocate. Throughout your career, you will earn the opportunity to take advantage of advanced billets and advanced educational opportunities that can enhance the development of your legal skills. As a Marine Corps Judge Advocate, there are many ways to turn your calling into a career.
Opportunities available after your first tour as a judge advocate include:
- Staff Judge Advocate (SJA)
Staff Judge Advocates provide legal counsel and special assistance to commanders. As an SJA, you would act as the chief legal advisor to commanding officers of operational units, Marine Corps bases or stations, or any of the wide range of commands that support the mission of the Marine Corps.
- Officer-in-Charge of a Legal Services Support Section (LSSS)
Judge advocates in this role oversee the LSSSs at major Marine Corps bases and stations. Their duties include supervising other judge advocates and support staff, while assisting counsel with their cases.
- Military Judges
Judge advocates may become Military Judges, serving on the bench in court-martial proceedings.
- Appellate Counsel
Judge advocates may become appellate counsel, arguing cases before the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals or the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
Advanced Law Study
The Marine Corps fosters a culture of continuous learning. Once you earn your commission as a Marine Officer and have begun your career as a Marine Corps Judge Advocate, you will be eligible to continue your formal education through several advanced educational opportunities. The Marine Corps will help you reach your educational goals through several fully funded and self-funded educational opportunities. To learn more about these opportunities, download the PDF here*.
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MAGTF refers to the unique four-part structure that organizes Marine Corps operating forces. This framework brings together Aviation, Ground and Logistics Combat elements under a central Command element. The result is a flexible, combined-arms unit with the capabilities to conduct the Marine Corps' full range of operations, from humanitarian aid and disaster relief to projection of power from the sea.
MAKEUP OF A MEU
A MEU, or Marine Expeditionary Unit, is the smallest type of MAGTF, often providing the most substantial response in the shortest amount of time. 2,200 Marines that are trained in hundreds of areas of expertise serve on a MEU. Here is the breakdown of a MEU's makeup:
Command Element – Approximately 200 Marines. Responsible for command and control of the entire MEU.
Ground Combat Element – Approximately 1,200 Marines. A Battalion Landing Team that includes three rifle companies, a weapons company, a battery of artillery and platoons of the following: combat engineers, light armored reconnaissance, tanks, Force Reconnaissance and amphibious assault vehicles.
Aviation Combat Element – Approximately 500 Marines. A MEU's ACE is built around a medium tilt-rotor squadron, reinforced by CH-53E heavy lift helicopters, light attack helicopters and Harrier attack jets. The result is a squadron of 25 to 30 aircraft.
Logistics Combat Element – Approximately 300 Marines. Provides supply, transportation, maintenance and additional support for the MEU.
READY AT SEA
MEUs deploy aboard an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG): Three naval ships specifically designed to provide the Marines with a mobile base of operations. See here what serving aboard a MEU entails.