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Can being a JAG lawyer be a lifelong career or is it a good idea to switch to a civilian job after an amount of time?

I am considering becoming a JAG lawyer but I'm not sure if I should use it to gain experience and then leave the military for a law firm or if it is kind of a choice as you go thing.

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Eleanor’s Answer

Hi Addie,

Yes, you can do both. My uncle actually was a JAG lawyer on active duty for 10 years, and then changed to the reserves and opened a private practice. You could also do a full 20 years on active duty and then open a private practice after you retire from service. You can also do more than 20 years on active duty if you want. Lots of options, all good ones. Good luck!
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Michael’s Answer

Hi, I was a JAG officer and it was a great way to start a career. I think it is important know before going into JAG if you want a private sector career or not. If desiring a private sector career, it is important to realize that time spent in JAG after the initial 3 or 4 year commitment may yield diminishing returns from the perspective of a private sector employer. The reason that I say this is because JAG skills become less transferable in some ways to a civilian employers once you move from being a "doer" to a manager. The transition to manager generally happens once an individual has achieved the rank of major on active duty. If serving only 3 to 4 years, it can sometimes be a great conversation starter in an interview to say you obtained courtroom experience, potentially deployed, run a tax center or done a litany of other jobs.

However, after 10 years of service, your law school classmates have often worked in law firms or other settings where they've gained valuable commercial skills, particularly in specialized areas like tax, regulatory law and other areas.

IN summary, JAG can be a great place to start, but if the private sector is what you desire, don't stay too long!
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DENNIS’s Answer

A career in the military is something to be proud of. However, both answers above are correct. The pay scale in the military is pre-defined. Private sector lawyers can make a good deal more, However, as Eleanor points out - you can do both! Put in JAG time and continue on in the Reserve after active duty. It's a great way to serve your country and be a private lawyer at the same time. Good luck!
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Seth’s Answer

I understand that JAG is great experience to start, but the pay is far below what you make in the private sector. If your lifestyle allows you to do a few years as a JAG though, you should be able to leverage that experience well.
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