What Does It Take to Become a Military Lawyer or Attorney?

Although there are many similarities between civilian and military attorneys, there are still notable distinctions. That is because military law is a specialized area of legal practice with unique jurisdiction.

In most cases, the military offers a free defense attorney to the accused members when certain cases arise. However, the accused still has the option of selecting a civil attorney to represent him/her.

So, what exactly is a military lawyer or attorney all about? Here’s everything you need to know about this type of attorney so you can decide if this is an area of law you’re interested in practicing.

The Responsibilities

One of the essential roles of a military attorney is to represent a client in matters that fall under the jurisdiction of military law. That involves representing the defendant in criminal and civil cases.

The lawyer may work in any of the military branches:

  • Marines
  • Air force
  • Army
  • Navy

Some of the duties the lawyer might be involved in include:

  • Representing the defendant in administrative discharge hearings
  • Taking part in court-martial appeals
  • Academy disenrollment
  • ROTC & military command investigations
  • Advising commanders on civilian, military and international law
  • Preparing military handbooks
  • Advising and preparing clients for trial

What Are the Education Requirements?

You need to complete your undergraduate degree before applying for the Law School Admissions Test. Once you pass the LSAT, you’ll be required to complete law school and graduate with a Juris Doctor degree. You will then be eligible to represent service members in any branch of your liking.

When Is It Necessary for a Service Member to Hire a Civil Attorney?

Although the military provides a free attorney representing the accused, there are instances when one may decide to go for a civil attorney. Some of these instances are:

  • When the defense counsel is overburdened with many cases
  • When the defense counsel provided is unfamiliar with the issue at hand
  • When the defendant feels they need a more autonomous legal counsel
  • To avoid conflict of interest during representation

There are many other ways in which a civil attorney may help a service member. For instance, they can help by offering an SCRA Centralized Verification Service. This verification shows whether an individual is on active military duty or not for certain benefits apply to them.

Examples of Cases Handled by Military Lawyers

As mentioned earlier, there are similarities and differences between the civilian and military court. That means there are unique cases that may be different from the ones handled by civilian lawyers. Some of the examples include:

  • Court-martial: This is a case that involves defending a client who has done an offense that is against military law. Service members can be subjected to various punishments by the court-martial if found guilty of certain offenses. They can face confinement, punitive discharge, loss of pay and allowances, and reduced pay grade.
  • Landlord-tenant disputes: Due to the frequent moving that service members have to endure during their career, a lawyer can represent them during landlord-tenant disputes. However, other personal matters, such as child custody or divorce are not within the jurisdiction of a military attorney.
  • Military Offenses: A military lawyer can represent offenses such as insubordination and murder in combat or desertion. However, other offenses such as theft and murder are under civilian law. These are not unique to the armed forces; hence, they don’t have to be handled by a military lawyer.


Remuneration for lawyers representing service members is based on the rank and years served in the military. However, the starting salary of a fresh attorney starts at $38,000 per year.

This amount increases as one moves up the ranks. The compensation per year can hit up to six digits in the future.

Bottom Line

Serving as a military attorney is a possibility for anyone pursuing a career in law. You’ll need to pass the LSAT to qualify in this field. However, this is a promising career with many benefits.

Comments 1

  1. Stephen Ryan says:

    I will take you through 10 steps and cover other essential information on what it means to be a military lawyer. Step 1: Be a valid applicant. Step 2: Earn an undergraduate degree. Step 3: Go to Officer Candidate School. Step 4: Pass the LSAT Exam. Step 5: Finish your legal education. Step 6: Pass the bar exam. Step 7: Apply for the state bar Step 8: Attend a state swearing ceremony. Step 9: Join the JAG Corps. Step 10: Start training and enter active duty

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