Marine Judge Advocates are attorneys responsible for upholding the law, values and codes of the Marine Corps. They are Marine Officers first and attorneys second.
Serving as a Marine Judge Advocate is different from being a private attorney.
Unlike private sector attorneys, Marine Judge Advocates take responsibility for caseloads immediately in their first tour. With the assistance of supervisory judge advocate mentors, new attorneys immediately begin practicing law in the fields of criminal litigation, institutional compliance, government ethics and administrative law.
Marine Judge Advocates are unrestricted officers, meaning they can serve in various positions open to Marine Officers in other occupational fields, for example, serving as an operations officer, executive officer, or Commanding Officer.
Advantages to serving as a Marine Judge Advocate include the privilege of leading Marines and the ability to advance your knowledge and expertise through criminal litigation experience across diverse legal portfolios early in your law career. Very few lawyers in the private sector get exposure to such variety and hands-on experience so early in their careers. In addition to hands-on legal experience, the Marine Corps offers opportunities for Judge Advocates to deepen their expertise by obtaining a Master of Laws Degree (LLM) and attending training courses at professional legal institutions throughout the United States. More than one third of our Judge Advocates attend these courses each year.
Those pursuing service as Marine Judge Advocates must first meet the basic commissioning requirements for Marine Officers, which include:
Additional requirements for law candidates include:
Think you meet our basic requirements? Contact an Officer Selection Officer (OSO) to get started developing a package for board selection.
Marine Judge Advocates are Marine Officers first, attorneys second. There are several paths to earn an officer's commission, including Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) and the Officer Candidate Course (OCC).
Most candidates are screened for an officer's commission at Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Both bar-certified attorneys and law school students are eligible. This challenging training environment evaluates candidates for the character and mindset necessary to lead Marines.
If they overcome the physical and mental challenges of Officer Candidates School, they may choose to accept an officer's commission and with it the privilege of leading Marines. After commissioning, bar-certified lawyers will remain in Quantico to complete The Basic School (TBS).
Law students will return to law school to complete their juris doctorate. These Marine Officers may have the opportunity to intern with Marine Judge Advocates during the summer as well as pre- and post-bar timeframe. Upon bar certification they report to The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
At The Basic School second lieutenants learn the duties and skills of a Marine Officer in a classroom setting and through practical application. This six-month training program may be deferred for up to one year while completing a judicial clerkship, LLM or MBA.
After completing The Basic School prospective, Marine Judge Advocates attend the Naval Justice School (NJS) in Newport, Rhode Island, where they learn the fundamental principles of military justice, civil and administrative law, and procedure.
Trial Counsel: As a Trial Counsel, Defense Counsel or Victims’ Legal Counsel, Marine Judge Advocates litigate felony and misdemeanor criminal cases before military judges and juries. Additionally, as a Trial Counsel, they coordinate with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and other state/federal law enforcement agencies on criminal investigations. In later assignments they may also practice at the appellate level, arguing cases before the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals or the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
Staff Judge Advocate and Legal Assistance: As Marine Judge Advocates gain experience, they can transition to other areas of law, such as administrative law and legal assistance, or act as in-house counsel to Marine Corps headquarters staff. In these positions they research and write internal memoranda and opinions and advise commanders on all legal issues affecting the command – from fiscal law and government ethics to military justice (criminal law). They also work closely with Marines and their families on family, consumer, tax, estate and immigration law issues.
Operational and International Law: Marine Judge Advocates maintain the same readiness and training standards as every Marine Officer and are deployable worldwide. Marine Judge Advocates have opportunities to deploy with scalable Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) around the world. Deployed Marine Judge Advocates support commands and their Marines through a broad spectrum of operational, cyber and international law.
Marine Judge Advocates rotate to different duty stations every three to five years and serve all over the world, including Japan, Korea, Germany, California, Virginia, Washington, D.C., North and South Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Maryland.