Lawyers in the federal government enjoy the ability to quickly take on significant responsibility and feel like they're contributing to something important. Many of the great reasons to work as an attorney in the federal government include:
wide range of legal specialties
immediate responsibility and independence
ability to work all over the country and world
expected large number of openings as baby boomers retire
loan repayment assistance programs
high-end public interest pay, as compared to nonprofit organizations and other levels of government (source: 2016-2017 Federal Legal Employment Guide (FLEG) from NALP and PSJD ())
UNC Law subscribes annually to the Government Honors and Internship Handbook (on My Carolina Law). This up-to-date, comprehensive guide lists and explains internship and full-time (called "honors programs") legal employment opportunities within federal government agencies, commissions, and offices, as well as their current deadlines. Most post-graduate opportunities for 3Ls have deadlines in the fall, while internship deadlines for 1Ls and 2Ls vary throughout the fall and spring, depending on the agency. Those that require more extensive background checks and security clearances may have 1Ls apply prior to November 1. See the Handbook for more information.
To see listings of all of departments and independent agencies of the federal government, as well as their regional offices and other relevant information, go online to www.leadershipdirectories.com. UNC Law subscribes to this listing and you can access the directories from the computers at the law school or by hard-copy in either the CDO or law library.
Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG)
The Judge Advocate General's Corps provides legal services for the various branches of the military (Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines). Each branch of the armed services has its own corps of attorneys. Judge Advocates serve as prosecutors and defense attorneys for criminal trials under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In addition, they practice international, operation, labor, contract, environmental, tort, and administrative law. Judge Advocates also provide legal assistance to soldiers, retirees, and their families, and are the main legal point of contact for their respective base.
JAG program selections are competitive, beginning with an application and interview with a local or visiting Staff Judge Advocate. Commitment to service, physical fitness, and a positive, mature, genuine disposition are key qualifications. If you are selected by the Board after your initial review, you must also pass a fitness/medical exam and the bar in any state to be officially assigned and commissioned into the JAG. Multi-week training programs include both officer training and attending a JAG school with other members of your cohort.
JAGs typically sign on for a four-year commitment to the military and will likely serve abroad on at least a six-month deployment. Responsibilities while deployed often include serving in an advisory role, assisting with contracts, performing humanitarian aid work, and litigating when necessary. Combat is highly unlikely for JAGs, and deployment locations and conditions vary widely based on need.
Newly commissioned Judge Advocates often receive immediate responsibility in handling significant legal issues, and prosecuting will be a primary focus of your early JAG career. Major benefits of the JAG experience are often cited as the wide variety of practice areas you are exposed to and the sense of doing important work for a worthy cause. Judge Advocates are promoted to Captains within a relatively quick time frame and have opportunities to advance and specialize if they decide to stay in the military past the first four years.
The Army, Navy, and Air Force JAG programs each come to campus for interviews and/or information sessions. More information on the different JAG Corps programs can be found at the following websites: