Patrick Bateman wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:What do the long-term career options look like post-JAG? I mean truly long-term. I'm going into the Navy JAG. I previously interned and then was picked up. I'm looking to stay in for 20 yrs and collect my 40% pension + 401k contributions/match. I've seen some discussions of what they look like 4, 6, 8, and 10 years into service, but I'm curious what options I'd have at 45 with 20 years of JAG experience beneath me.
The ultimate answer is a "it depends" on the particular officer's career, connections, and specializations (and also, what they actually want to do as a civilian).
In my experience, not all retired JAGs are going to be created equal. The high speed O-6 that is retiring from a prominent position that has juice with the senior leadership is going to have a very different experience than the shitbag JAG who no one could believe made O-5. Reputation is going to go a long way as well - by the time you retire, you are going to be a very well known quantity. Being liked and well regarded professionally will open up civilian opportunities far more than the person who everyone hated working for/with and whose retirement notice lead to outbreaks of celebration.
I've been in the DC area for some time now and I've seen a lot stay within the Federal government. Those who know the right people can roll right into GS-15 and SES positions without a whole lot of effort. I've seen it a number of times where the person has basically kept their active duty job after the office was able to create a civilian equivalent. You retire Friday as Colonel/Captain Smith and then pick up in the exact same office as Mr. Smith, GS-15, that Monday.
I know a number now that are federal Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) and a few that went on to be appointed as federal Magistrates. Others have hung out their own shingles - I can think of one or two former military judges that are now doing UCMJ criminal defense work. Those that take the time to write and publish extensively may be able to move into academia.
Much like my post a while back on getting out at the mid-career mark, your subject matter expertise is going to drive a lot of this too. For someone with a deep background in procurement that is retiring from AF Material Command, things will go pretty smoothly. From day 1 as an O-2, I would be always looking for a subject matter niche to master that would aid in a civilian career - that benefits you if you punch out at year 6 or 26.
I was a Navy JAG for five years ('04-'09), then an AUSA, then at AMLAW 25 firm in secondary market. I was at a T-14 before that, which helped. There are not easy answers to this question - a lot depends on your career path. You have to think independently through your career about what you'll bring to the table when you leave. I know senior military judges (0-6) who literally had no idea what to do when they left.
In general, the sweet spots to leave are (a) around 4-6 years; and (b) after you make 0-6 and are a serious subject matter expert. If you try to leave in the middle, you're a mid-ranker who is expert at nothing compared to your non-military peers.
Common paths out to great careers for the 4-6 year folks:
1. AUSA/Main Justice. Several of my colleagues took the same path out at about the same career stage. If you're trying this, make sure you get two full trial/litigation tours before leaving (or appellate before NMCCA). You can usually get your detailer to make this happen for you. This is a great route, having done it myself. But unless you're a prior academic superstar, you'll probably need to be geographically flexible to get hired direct from JAG. I was 29 and took the first offer from a USAO that I received.
2. Other federal government. I know one guy who is now a civilian attorney at DOD.
3. Middle level associate at litigation firms. Usually midlaw or small law without the intermediary DOJ step though, unless you have a stellar academic resume.
4. FBI Agent. I know a few who did this.
5. State government. I know one guy who is with the California AG now, another with Virginia AG.
For the senior Officers:
1. Again, AUSA. One of the best AUSAs at my USAO was a former 0-6 JAG. This is for folks with lots of military litigation experience.
2. Lower judiciary. Magistrate judges, administrative law judges.
3. Other federal government, esp. DOD/IC/Congress/etc. For this, you usually need some real subject matter expertise and connections. So you'll want to have spent significant time (within Navy JAG) at one of the "Codes" in DC and/or as 0-6 SJA at major commands.
4. In-house at military-related businesses. I know a few at USAA, Navy Federal, Lockheed, etc.
5. Professors. Same requirements as #3 - you need a unique expertise.
6. Partner at small/regional firms (litigators). I know one guy who is a partner at a firm with three offices in Virginia. He was a senior trial counsel and military judge.
You need to decide early what your career is about and direct MOST of your billets that way, so that you can tell a coherent story.