By Karin MartinezJune 1, 2018
WASHINGTON -- Is law school in your career plans?
The Judge Advocate General's Corps is looking for highly qualified officers from all branches to join the JAG Corps. And the Army is willing to pay the law school tuition, with the help of the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP).
Officers selected for FLEP attend a civilian law school of their choice, for three years of legal studies, while remaining on active duty with full pay and benefits. During summer breaks, FLEP officers attend on-the-job training at an active-duty JAG office. Upon graduation, FLEP officers must take and pass a state bar exam before they join the JAG Corps.
According to Chief of Administrative Law for U.S. Army Africa Maj. Alex Barnett, who became a judge advocate general through the program, the competition to be selected is tough, but determination pays off.
"Typically, around 100 officers from across the Army apply every year and 20-25 are selected. I was selected on my first attempt. However, it is not uncommon for officers to not be selected on their first application, but then to be selected the next year. This is actually quite common for lieutenants who, because of their short time in the Army, do not have the history of sustained performance in their file that a captain with more time and OERs (officer evaluation reports) would," said Barnett.
Human Resources Command recently released Army MILPER Message 18-081 announcing the 2018 FLEP Selection Board. Eligible officers must be a U.S. citizen; serving in the rank of second lieutenant to captain; be a graduate of an accredited college or university with a bachelor's degree; have at least two, but not more than six, years of total active federal service at the time legal training begins (fall 2019); possess a secret security clearance; and not have an approved resignation or separation date.
"The selection board's decision really is based in the whole-person concept," Barrett said. "The board will, however, consider a number of quantifiable factors to include: undergraduate GPA (past academic performance), OERs (performance), Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT) score (ability to succeed in law school), and letters of recommendation. So, maintaining high performance in their current job, studying for and taking the LSAT (and re-taking it if they do not do well the first time), and asking trusted leaders/mentors for their recommendation are all things that a person who wants to apply for FLEP can do prior to applying to increase their chances."
Interested officers should review MILPER Message 18-081 and AR 27-1, Chapter 14, to determine whether they meet eligibility requirements. Applications for the 2018 FLEP Selection Board are due to HRC no later than Nov. 1. Board results are generally published in late December or early January. Selected officers will receive PCS order to the law school of their choice before the start of school in fall 2019.
Barrett thinks this route to becoming a lawyer was the best option for him and he encourages others to do the same.
"I love the opportunity to be a trusted adviser to commanders and to develop areas of expertise in a wide range of legal and operational issues. Since the balance of any officer's time in the military will be spent on staffs, I wanted, and found in the JAG corps, the opportunity to be challenged by a wider array of issues than I may have encountered in my basic branch.
"If you like the Army, but maybe want to do something different, FLEP offers an opportunity to do that. Second, the Army pays you to go to law school. You leave law school with zero debt - something that is not possible for most people funding their own way through. Most importantly, you get the opportunity to join a great JAG team and support commanders in carrying out the Army's mission," said Barrett.
Want more first-hand insight on the FLEP program? Interested officers should contact Barnett, USARAF Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, at DSN 637-8813.