Dirty Jobs: Paralegal Specialist

By Cpl. Kim Han-byeol, 210th Fires Brigade Public AffairsAugust 8, 2013

Legal eagle
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It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. The paperwork side of military justice takes a lot of time and effort. It's critical that it is done correctly, so justice is served and every Soldier is treated fairly under the law. Paralegal specialists get it done.

These Soldiers go through advanced individual training at Fort Lee, Va. They learn all aspects of the military legal system, from legal assistance and claims to child defense services. They train to be ready to serve the legal needs of the Army.

"I use the book, Manual for Courts-Martial, to make packets for commanders to impose punishment," said Pfc. Emily Cooper, from Blue Ridge, Ga., a paralegal specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 210th Fires Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

She is in charge of prosecutions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and works on adverse actions, Article 15s, chapter, separations and court martial.

She says the worst part of her job is when friends receive disciplinary actions and she must process their paperwork.

"Since our names go on the packets, they tend to blame us or want me to do something to make the punishment go away," said Cooper. "But we are the standard and we work for the commanders who initiate the punishments, and we have to do our jobs."

While most Soldiers work for their units, paralegal specialists work for the battalion first sergeants and commanders. They assist command teams with processing legal actions and non-judicial punishments that commanders wish to initiate on Soldiers.

"We give them legal guidance on the regulations and policies that tell them what they can and cannot do," said Cooper.

After they complete packets with all the correct information, they are reviewed by chain of command and approved or disapproved by the approval authority.

"Unlike other Soldiers, we paralegal specialists are certified by the Judge Advocate General," said Cooper. She is very proud of being a paralegal specialist and her certified.

Another challenge for paralegal specialists, including Cooper, is that they regularly work with much higher-ranking officers.

"When we work, we are the only low-ranking Soldiers in that room," said Cooper. "So, to do my job, I should be confident and be able to work with commanders directly."

Even though Cooper has these difficulties, she considers her job fun and rewarding because she can help the Army to keep its standards.