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What does an Army Reserve JAG do?

By Liz Fernandez
Updated May 16, 2024
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George Washington established the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in 1775, making it the oldest law firm in the United States. A JAG attorney provides legal services and advice to Army Reserve and active-duty Army personnel in the United States and abroad. Areas of practice include criminal prosecution, international law, and military law. To become an Army Reserve JAG, an individual must be a graduate of a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) and must be a member in good standing of the bar in any state.

The JAG Corps, which has more than 3,400 attorneys, is the legal arm of the Army and can be a starting point for public service careers. An Army Reserve JAG serves his or her country as an officer. A prospective JAG can choose to serve part-time in the Army Reserve or full-time as an active-duty officer. Those joining the JAG Corps enter the Army at an advanced paygrade and are eligible for a promotion within six to 12 months of service.

Historically, the JAG Corps has been at the forefront of many milestone cases worldwide. Some of these cases include the trial of General Benedict Arnold, the prosecution of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, and the trial of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, Germany. JAG attorneys were also the creators of the Uniform Military Code of Justice (UCMJ), which applies consistent standards of conduct across all branches of the military.

To be eligible for a position as an Army Reserve JAG, a prospective candidate must exhibit leadership, physical fitness, commitment to the military, and professionalism. The Army looks at the mental and physical fitness of a prospective candidate, as well as his or her moral standing and character. Graduation from an ABA-approved law school and admission to the bar of any state is also required. Army Reserve JAG candidates must be under the age of 42 when they enter active duty. If selected, the Army asks for a four-year commitment to the JAG Corps.

There is training involved when a person becomes part of the Army Reserve JAG. The first phase is in Fort Lee, Virginia, where JAG officers undergo a 12-day military orientation course that instructs them on the basic areas of military life. Officers then move on to the Charlottesville phase, where they undergo more than 10 weeks of academic training at the University of Virginia, covering the organization and function of the JAG Corps, as well as an overview of Army law. The final phase consists of a six-week course in leadership at Fort Benning, Georgia. All new Army officers go through this course, which includes foot marches, combat training, and rifle marksmanship.

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