By Maj. William GeddesOctober 22, 2013
FORT MEADE, Md. -- Doing more with less. As the current budget crisis demonstrates, the days of making every dollar stretch as far as it can are here to stay. And with the implementation of a one-law-firm concept, the 200th Military Police Command is doing just that.
Thirteen Soldiers from the 200th MPCOM and its four subordinate brigades gathered at Fort Meade, Md. Sept. 19-20 to train and discuss how to institute the one-law-firm concept. The goal of the training was for the brigade command judge advocates and their paralegals to discuss common legal issues that apply across the Command and develop an approach to address them as one legal team. It's all part of an effort to provide consistent advice across the brigades and ensure each legal team shares its expertise to respond to the most complex issues.
"I have always believed that legal issues are best resolved through a team concept, whether through trying a court-martial, or responding to a complex administrative law action such as a [Financial Liability Investigation of Property Loss]," said Col. Roberto D. Dibella, 200th MPCOM Command Judge Advocate. "While, this concept is generally used in particular offices, the thought was to expand the concept to group think within legal offices in one command."
Training conducted during the gathering included addressing common office management issues, common investigations/cases to include effective case tracking, sexual assault investigations, advising FLIPL investigating officers, conducting legal reviews on separation actions, paralegal utilization, and advising Commanders regarding various legal issues. Included in the concept was developing tracking systems, and implementing Military Justice On-Line-Reserve Component; a legal tracking system first used in the Active Component and recently introduced in the Reserve Component.
Covering all these topics provided a good base for the "law firm" to get off the ground. "I thought the training was fantastic -- an A+," said Maj. Kurt W. Perhach, Command Judge Advocate for the 333rd Military Police Brigade. "I spent over five years on active duty primarily at Ft. Bragg, then the past three years as the Senior Defense Attorney for the 16th Legal Operations Detachment New Jersey team, and the idea of working as a member of a team is easily lost when you are defending clients. It was extremely beneficial to me with the material, the instruction, the examples and I'm looking forward to the next one."
Conducting this training provided a common base from which the 200th MPCOM SJA could start from, and it also continued moving the office in a direction it has been on since Dibella joined the Command in December of 2012. "This concept is in a sense formalizing what has been done informally in the past," said Dibella. "The Brigade CJAs seem to welcome the synchronization of effort, understanding that the goal pushing the one-law-firm concept will make their jobs easier, especially with the sharing of expertise with each other. The brigade commanders welcome the support from the SJA's office in this manner and appear to appreciate that we are attempting to maximize our resources to help them."
Perhach agreed with that assessment. "The brigade commander is definitely supportive of the concept," he said. "I think this is a wonderful concept and am happy to be part of the team. I know that other CJA's have the same types of craziness that I do, and the idea of getting together and putting faces to names makes the working relationship so much easier for me to pick up the phone and call someone else who has likely faced the same problems as me."
For all the positives the one law firm concept brings to the table, there will be challenges, as Dibella acknowledged. "The brigade CJAs all work for a brigade commander who senior rates them and a Staff Judge Advocate who rates them," Dibella said. "Therefore, while working the one law firm concept, the brigade CJAs also have a brigade commander to support and these interests may not always align so neatly. Additionally, there are the challenges of synchronizing this effort with legal teams located in four different geographic locations from the headquarters Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. Finally, one of the greatest challenges is reaching down to the paralegals at the battalion and ensuring they are communicating regularly with their brigade legal office and supporting legal actions rather than performing other duties such as S-1 work."
Despite the challenges, having the legal assets of the 200th MPCOM working as one law firm seems to be a move towards giving commanders the support they need. "Because of more emphasis towards supporting CONSUS requirements with the decreasing deployments, it is essential that Judge Advocates are positioned to respond to the myriad of legal actions faced by our commanders in this environment," said Dibella. "Our hope is that this concept is the path to continuing to provide the best legal support to our command."