United States Marine Corps Officer, Judge Advocate General, Prosecutor, Victim Legal Counsel
New Orleans, LA
$100,000 - $120,000
There are many things that are important about being in the field: law school, being very physically fit, having a desire to lead Marines in combat, and act as a leader or mentor. Deployment cycles have been drawing down significantly since 2010. Lawyers in general do deploy on a regular basis, and I am subject to being sent on deployments virtually any time. The military did not pay for my law school degree. I am still in mounds of debt. However, they do provide some faster pay raises for lawyers in order to help us pay off our loans. The only time someone will get their law school paid for is if they were already a Marine Officer, applied for the program, were accepted, and attended while they were on active duty. However, I became a lawyer before I commissioned as an officer, so that did not apply to me. I have been commissioned since 2007. I was obligated until approximately 2012, but then signed up for another 5 years at that time.
I went to law school, completed a year of rigorous military, field and strenuous physical training. Military skills involve learning how to operate different weapon systems, from pistols and rifles to heavy machine guns and artillery. During training stages, we do long marches where we're carrying about 80lbs of equipment for up to 15 miles at a time. We have to use a basic compass and map and pencil (no GPS allowed) in order to navigate through 24 km of nothing but woods, looking for red mail box stations for 8 hours at a time. We have to be physically fit, run through a number of endurance obstacle courses, run fast in general, and always stay under a certain weight category for our height. We have to learn how to command and lead Marines into battle, by learning tactics and staying motivated under strenuous and stressful conditions, such as when the enemy is shooting at us.
I have been in many different workplaces and performed lots of different jobs. I have helped Marines with their divorces and their custody issues. I have helped them with their contracts and family law. I’ve done criminal law as a prosecutor as well as a victim legal counsel. I’ve done post trial review and I’ve been a legal advisor to commanders. I’ve also been deployed to Iraq and there I did operational law. All the training they required was also infantry training in addition to all the legal training that I had received.
My deployment to Iraq was very rewarding. I was very grateful to work with a great group of people - not just the Marines, but other U.S. forces as well as members of the NATO military forces. I have learned so much from that experience. It was another exercise in courage because I was far away from anything I had done before. I had to rely on all the training that I received in my initial stages of becoming a Marine. I realized that I am more well trained than I thought and that what they say really is true: you will never get a job in the Marine Corps that you are not somehow already prepared for. It gave me a lot of confidence to overcome fear. It made me appreciate living every day in the United States where nobody is shooting at me. It made me more grateful for the freedoms that we do have here and the life that I get to have as a healthy American citizen.
Hmmmm… What motivates me to do the work I do? I’ve just been doing it for ten years. I really don’t know. I work in the military and you really don’t have a choice whether you want to do something or not. I guess a better question would be: why did I choose to be in the Marines?
I wanted to be in the Marines because they are the most challenging and they are the best at what they do. I wanted to get the best and most challenging kind of training so that I could be best prepared for whatever they would task me with. The Marines were the ones that would train me the hardest. I wanted to learn how to be a good leader. I wanted a practical skillset and I wanted to give back to the community and to my country. I liked the physical fitness aspect of this job, as well as the opportunity for various mental challenges. All those things were very important for me and I made my choice based on the fact that the Marines checked off all the criteria.
I decided I wanted to join the Marines in law school. I was looking for something that inspired me and working at a law firm did not. I was looking for other ways to use my law degree. I realized that the Armed Forces had its own legal program. That was part of it. I am absolutely happy with my choice. I thought I was only going to stay for four years, and now I am over ten years in. It was a big surprise that I decided to be here this long and that they decided to promote me, but I really enjoy the work and the people.
As a lawyer in the Marine Corps, you're going to do a number of different jobs at any time, for about a year or so at a time until you rotate. So far, I have been a family law, tenant law, consumer law, estate law, and tax attorney, and a prosecutor. Currently my title is Victims' Legal Counsel, which is a totally new job description that was created in each branch of the services as a result of Congress receiving thousands of complaints of sexual assault victims in recent years not feeling that their rights were advocated for or privacy protected. I'm the first one doing this job, and it's actually a lot of fun. I can definitely say that Barnard helped me become a stark advocate for victims' rights, esp since 95% of my victim clients happen to be women. Remember Take Back The Night on campus? That's basically what I deal with now every single day. Additionally, in my free time, I am a Girl Scout Troop leader for 8 girls aged 9-11. Currently, it is cookie season, and we are selling hundreds of boxes. I obviously enjoy empowering young women, and I get to do that now in both my job and my volunteer time.
The hardest part is making sure that I am not letting down my fellow Marines and impeding the mission. Everything about being a Marine is hard - I’ll tell you that. And that is definitely true. It is difficult to sustain the physical fitness requirement. It is difficult to maintain credibility among so many men. Anytime that I move and start working with a new group of people, I have to prove myself all over again. You want to be able to just be very proficient in everything you do. They are constantly requiring new things from you. This is especially true every time you change job positions, which is very frequently. That is hands down the most difficult part, I’d say. Other than that: deadlines, speaking to people of higher rank, and remaining credible in a virtually all-male environment.
The best part is getting to work with the Marines - the camaraderie. You work with these people with whom you automatically have a connection with, no matter who they are. You could have a Marine who participated in the Vietnam War and who no longer is obviously on active duty - they only served for a couple of years - and you will have a connection with him or her the same way you would with all the people you meet whenever you check in to a new station. It’s just fun having that camaraderie and that connection with all these people who all understand each other on this basic level without knowing each other for very long. Together we form a stable support system. It’s really a great group of Americans that I get to work with every day.
There’s a funny expression based on a stereotype that Marines are stupid. One acronym for the Marines is “Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Expected,” but as much as people think this is true, it’s actually entirely false. The Marines are not stupid at all. They are very smart. They really are. They are forced to learn really quickly and they are expected to excel at everything immediately. You’re expected to excel at everything you didn’t know how to do yesterday, today. You need to figure out how to get the job done with sometimes very little information or training. The Marines are very smart because they just figure out how to get the job done, sometimes with very few resources. Also, I haven’t really met many Marines who aren’t also going to school full time while they aren’t on active duty. Contrary to public perception, they are actually very hard-working, talented individuals with high ethics and standards.
It’s formal everywhere you go, but once you get to know people you can have more fun times and share increasingly personal things. I have been in many different workplaces and performed lots of different jobs. It's mostly very professional, but because of the prevalent camaraderie, it is also a very friendly and interactive space during times of low-stress.
In terms of going to law school, I would say it is important to think about the ways you want to make the world a better place using your law degree. Have a good reason to go into the area of law. That would be my advice.
In terms of going into the military, if you want to serve your country and you want a very difficult challenge, this is a phenomenal opportunity to learn more about yourself and the military's place in the world. My advice would be to remember that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the strength to overcome fear. Those are not my words, but they're one of the mantras that we live by in the Marine Corps and it serves us well in all areas of our lives, not just in the workplace.
I don’t really know that there is something that I would do differently. I am really satisfied with what I have done up until now and that I have accomplished it this early on. I tried to challenge myself through life so that I could gain the benefits of that later. So what would I tell myself?
Maybe to have more faith in myself or to have more confidence in myself, that I know more than I think I know. Maybe to remember to do my best. I feel like I have been doing that. I really don’t know what I would tell myself because I am very proud of what I have accomplished. Things have worked out pretty well! I really have a great life. I have pretty much everything and even more than I ever wanted. I feel very grateful for everything that I do have and the timeline that got me here seemed to work out pretty well.
I guess, in light of this, I would tell myself to have faith in yourself and to have more faith that things are going to work out as long as you just have integrity, work hard, help others and take care of yourself.
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