Swooshe wrote:PB, you've mentioned a few times that the exit options for JAGs who were more focused on contracting are pretty good. I know that wasn't your area, but could you expand a bit on what paths you've seen JAGs take in this field? I know the VA and GSA do a ton of contracting and I'd assume being a former contracting-focused JAG might help there. Are there DOJ opportunities in that field? Do you think your 6-year recommendation would apply in contracting as well?
As a preface - as you note, that is not my bailiwick. Some of the other AF JAGs on this forum may be more plugged into this subject matter - please chime in and correct me if I am off the mark on any of this.
You can get your first bite at contracting/acquisitions/procurement (I am just going to refer to this as contracts for short hand) at the base legal level when you end up in general law/civil law. There is a JA review process for the contracts that the local contracting squadron (CONS) is pushing through. Over the years, there have been a number of contracting JAG positions at the junior captain level in deployed environments as well - commanders are always needing to buy things and the process is so complicated, subject matter experts are needed almost everywhere.
After your time at base legal, you can request to move to our headquarters contracts directorate at JB Andrews, JAQ within AFLOA. JAQ is composed of 3-4 divisions, each with their own sub-specialty. The real prize if you like this line of work is selection for the contracting LLM at GW - this is generally at the senior captain/junior major level, and you pick up a service commitment of a few years for the free degree.
For exit options, they seem to be everywhere. Within the Air Force, Material Command bases have GS attorney positions by the truck load, as does JAQ. A lot of reservists I have come across have been in this sort of role within the Air Force and DOD General Counsel offices. I have seen Main Justice positions involving this background a few times, almost always at the GS-15 level. There are also loads of all other alphabet soup agencies with these positions, GSA included. All the major defense contracting firms (Boeing, Lockheed, et al) routinely hire former JAGs with experience in contracting as well.
My 6 year rule (really 6-8) is probably an acceptable general guideline for any hypothetical planning. It is all about having enough time to actually develop a marketable subject matter expertise. Having a strong skill set that you can sell to employers is going to outweigh any arbitrary measure of time, which really is just an acknowledgement of the JAGC practice of moving folks from a subject matter expertise jobs back into the field/management. An obvious exception to the 6-8 year timeline would be the LLM - you will likely be at 10 years of service when all is said and done there but I think it would be well worth it.