The U.S. Navy offers two legal career options, one for enlisted sailors and one for officers. The Judge Advocate Generals Corps, or JAG, consists of commissioned officers who are law school graduates, supported by enlisted legal specialists known as legalmen in the Navy. Although officers need a law degree to join JAG, enlisted personnel do not need any special education or previous experience for the legalman job.
Enlisted Sailor: Legalman
A legalman assists in the Navy's legal process and is basically the Navy's equivalent of a paralegal. Working as a legalman in the Navy provides experience in office procedures and legal practices, and the training can sometimes provide college credit hours toward a degree. Advanced training is available at the Navy Justice School in fields such as court reporting or paralegal studies. A legalman in the U.S. Navy has the potential opportunity to work anywhere in the world. Specific duties vary by assignment, but a legalman normally prepares legal forms, processes appeals, prepares official accounts of inquiries, court-martials and hearings, maintains files and prepares correspondence.
Qualifications for Legalman
In addition to meeting the general requirements to join the Navy, those who want to become a legalman also need to meet specific requirements. Applicants must have excellent written and verbal communication skills. They must have at least normal hearing, and they need to be detail-oriented, capable of performing their duties accurately. The Navy prefers candidates who are excellent typists. The general qualifications to enlist in the Navy include at least a GED or high school diploma, U.S. citizenship or legal resident status and fewer than three dependents younger than 18. New enlistees must be between the ages of 17 and 34. A physical, drug screen and background check are required.
What a Legalman Earns
As an enlisted sailor, earnings vary by rank and years of service. Each rank corresponds to a pay grade on the U.S. Department of Defense pay table. At the time of publication, an E-1 seaman recruit earned $1,516.20 in monthly base pay. An E-2 seaman apprentice earned $1,699.80. An E-3 seaman earned from $1,787.40 to $2,014.80, and an E-4 petty officer third class earned between $1,979.70 and $2,403.30. Enlisted sailors living in civilian quarters received a minimum of $487.20 per month as a housing allowance and between $352.27 and $1,100 per month as a subsistence allowance, depending on family size.
Navy Officers: JAG Corps Attorneys
The JAG Corps allows new attorneys to gain experience quickly. They begin litigating cases soon after they join the Navy. They are actually required to practice in multiple areas, allowing them to assume more responsibility and gain a wider scope of experience than most civilian attorneys. JAG attorneys serve as prosecutors at court-martials and may act as a defense attorney. They provide legal assistance to sailors and advise commanders on legal matters related to the military, international law and maritime law.
Qualifications for JAG Corps Attorneys
Navy JAG Corps attorneys must meet both general and specific requirements for consideration. They must be graduates of an accredited law school and licensed attorneys. They must be U.S. citizens younger than 42. A physical and background check are required. Newly appointed JAG officers must complete Officer Development School, which lasts five weeks, and Naval Justice School, which lasts 10 weeks.
What a JAG Corps Attorney Earns
Earnings for naval officers vary with rank and years of military service. The U.S. Department of Defense issues an annual pay table with pay grades that correspond to ranks. At the time of publication, an O-1 ensign earned $2,876.40 to $3,619.20 monthly. An O-2 lieutenant junior grade earned between $3,314.10 and $4,586.40. An O-3 lieutenant earned $3,835.50 to $6,240, and an O-4 lieutenant commander earned from $4,362.30 to $7,283.70. Civilian housing allowances for an O-1 were $660.90 to $881.10 per month, and monthly food allowances, which depend on family size, ranged between $242.60 and $1,100.