After a stressful first year of law school, I was looking forward to summer; having a change of pace, relaxing, and being able to gain real-world experience in the practice of law. When I was applying for summer internships, I decided to apply for the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps internship thinking this would be a perfect time to test the waters for a post-Widener career path. Around the February timeframe, I received an email offering me a position to intern with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in Washington, D.C. I was elated with the news because it finally had felt like all my hard work was paying off.
Arriving in D.C. made me feel like I was a freshman being dropped off at college again; a new city, knowing no one, unaware of what the future would hold – it was extremely nerve-racking, and exciting all at the same time. Little did I know my days would be filled with activities such as morning runs, court martials, tours of the Pentagon and the Naval Air Station Patuxent River – just to name a few things.
When Monday morning rolled around, I was more jittery than ever; I arrived at the Navy Yard and found myself immediately immersed in uniformed personnel and Navy culture. It was overwhelming to say the least, however, I was warmly greeted by my mentor for the summer and the Lieutenant I would be working with for the next ten weeks. She made me feel welcomed right away and helped me to get everything squared away.
I worked in the Commander, Navy Installation Command (CNIC) for the summer; they are responsible for all shore installations under the control of the Navy. The CNIC reports directly to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). The office I worked in was smaller – three JAG attorney’s and myself. With only two semesters of law school under my belt, going into my first internship was a bit intimidating but the women I worked with made me feel right at home!
My summer spent as a Navy JAG intern was one, I won’t forget, but parts of it are also a blur. I quickly became familiar with the commonly used acronyms, the structure of the Navy, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and the Manual of the Judge Advocate General (JAGMAN). I was given substantive legal projects which involved various topics including: reviewing Nonjudicial Punishment (NJP) and Administrative Separation (ADSEP) cases and providing recommendations, researching the limitations on the authority of Navy Security Forces (NSF) to issue citations for federal misdemeanors involving unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flying over naval installations, researching policy concerns that may arise if CNIC’s Commander goes to certain events, and helping to draft and execute wills. Further, I was also able to observe oral arguments and portions of an ongoing court martial proceeding.
I also experienced aspects of JAG life that were totally unrelated to the legal field, such as physical training (PT). During the summer, I was welcomed to join my JAG colleagues in PT – most of the time which consisted of an early morning run, but other times we did other activities such as a group HIIT workout – I even was able to take the official Navy Physical Readiness Test (PRT) with the Lieutenant I worked with. The balance of work and physical fitness was one of my favorite parts of the internship. I was also able to get a glimpse into the balance of working as a JAG officer and how that interacts with having a family. I was surprised how well the work/family balance is in the Navy. Everyone is very accepting of having family responsibilities and offered flexibility when needed.
The impact that this internship had on me both professionally and personally is vast. I learned how to better step out of my comfort zone, make friends in a city where I knew no one, explore places I have never been to before, and challenge myself by trying new things. Professionally, I strengthened my communication skills by not being afraid to speak up and ask questions when they arose. I learned how much I am able to carry without being overwhelmed while maintaining the best version of myself. Further, I observed how much a positive attitude – both inside the workplace and outside of the workplace – really makes a difference in the productivity of the office.
I am incredibly grateful for having this opportunity with the U.S. Navy JAG Corps. While I do not come from a military background, or family, I was unsure of what this internship would be like because it was as if I was immersing myself in a whole new lifestyle for the ten-week period. However, I was welcomed with open arms and everyone I met was supportive, encouraging, and respectful. The legal work was interesting yet challenging. There was a great sense of camaraderie in the office which in turn made it a positive work environment.