ROTC and Army ROTC in particular is an excellent avenue to eventually become a lawyer in the military. This post will address how to navigate the route of attending law school immediately following an undergraduate program and commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Army or Air Force. It does not discuss each Service’s Fully Funded Legal Education Program for active duty serving officers who have two or more years of service OR attending law school while an Army ROTC cadet.
Army ROTC is probably the most certain way to become a lawyer in the Armed Services. There are two different routes for Army ROTC to become a lawyer:
- Active duty with an educational delay OR
- Reserve duty
Active duty with educational delay: during the fourth year in Army ROTC, a cadet can request an educational delay to attend law school before going on active duty. If a cadet receives admission to an accredited law school, the educational delay is almost always granted. Once a candidate commissions as a second lieutenant, he/she would serve in the individual ready reserve (IRR) as he/she completes law school. Once the officer completes law school and obtains the bar for any of the 50 States, he/she would apply to access into the Army JAG Corps. At present, the selection rate is close to 100%.
Service payback is four years for the Army ROTC scholarship. There are no scholarships to attend law school on an education delay.
Reserve duty: During the fourth year in Army ROTC, the candidate would designate that he/she wants reserve duty (National Guard or Reserve). The officer would serve in the Guard or Reserve while attending law school.
Service payback is eight years for the Army ROTC scholarship but this can be served concurrently while in law school as a drilling reservist. Accession as a JAG lawyer in the Army Reserve or National Guard is certain and the officer would finish out his/her service obligation as an Army Reserve or National Guard lawyer.
Air Force ROTC
There is one route for Air Force ROTC cadets to become a lawyer:
Active Duty with An Educational Delay
The Educational Delay Law Program is a three- year program for officers commissioned through AFROTC who want to delay their entry onto extended active duty in order to pursue a law degree. Applicants are not guaranteed positions as Air Force Judge Advocates and must compete for selection for entry into the Educational Delay Program (Educational Delay – In) and for entry onto active duty as Judge Advocates (Educational Delay – Out). However, there is a high probability that an Air Force ROTC Educational Delay officer WILL BE assessed into the JAG Corps. The JAG Corps does not award any scholarships for participation in the Educational Delay Program.
To apply for entry into the Educational Delay program, applicants must apply through their local AFROTC detachment in the Spring of their senior year. Applicants are typically notified in March. The selection rate for the educational delay is around 40-45%.
To apply for entry to the JAG Corps, Educational Delay Program students submit an application during the second semester of their third year of law school by completing application materials available online. Selection is on a best-qualified basis. Selection factors include academic performance, extracurricular activities, work experience, community service, military record, and interview recommendation. Again, service as an Air Force ROTC cadet is a big advantage and there is a high probability that an Educational Delay officer will be selected.
Service payback is the same as the active-duty Army candidate.
Finally, when applying for the Air Force ROTC scholarship out of high school, 70% or more of the scholarship are granted to technical majors. Since most technical majors such as engineering likely do not provide a firm foundation for law school, an Air Force ROTC technical scholarship recipient may be disadvantaged and should therefore compete for a non-technical scholarship out of high school.
There is no current route for a Navy ROTC midshipman to attend law school immediately following graduation.
Dual Admission Programs
High school candidates who know they want to be a lawyer when they apply out of high school should strongly consider programs that allow for automatic admittance to law school upon completion of the undergraduate program.
For example, Nova Southeastern provides guaranteed admission to their law school. For Army ROTC cadets and Air Force ROTC cadets on a Type 1 scholarship, Nova Southeastern provides free room and board. A candidate who secures admission to this Nova Southeastern program as well as an Army or Air Force ROTC scholarship would have zero out of pocket for their undergraduate education and a close to full proof route to becoming a lawyer.
Overall, Army ROTC is probably the most certain route to becoming a lawyer in the Armed Services and also has the possibility of serving as a lawyer in the Army Reserve or National Guard. If accepted to an accredited law school, it is pretty much guaranteed that an Army ROTC cadet will receive an educational delay. They will almost certainly be accessed as a JAG lawyer either on active duty or in the reserves.
The Air Force route is somewhat restricted by the need to compete for an educational delay and the fact that is small part of the overall mission for the Air Force JAG each year. In addition, to be most competitive for law school, an Air Force ROTC scholarship candidate would need to secure a non-technical scholarship which is less likely than a technical scholarship. However, once accepted for an educational delay, the probability for accession into the Air Force JAG Corps is high.
The Navy currently does not have a way for Navy midshipmen to attend law school after commissioning.
We hope this post was helpful and wish you the best of luck as you decide to serve in the Armed Forces as a lawyer.