Charleston Law alumni complete JAG Corps training
The Charleston School of Law class of 2022 produced four military officers serving as attorneys in three different branches of the United States military. Jessica Stark and David Estes are serving in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, Mary Catherine Rogers is serving in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps, and Shelby Sipe is serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.
As part of the law school’s career services programs, JAG Corps recruiters from the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force attend annual campus events throughout the year to network with students about opportunities for students interested in pursuing a career as a military lawyer.
Jessica Stark (’22) got her first taste of the JAG Corps program while she was a student at the law school and served two externships with the Air Force. She said the experience sparked a passion for military justice. “I thought I should branch out to the Army to make sure that it was for me,” she said. “It was during my time at Fort Jackson that I started to really enjoy the Army and knew it was the best fit for me.”
David Estes (’22) said he mentioned the JAG Corps as a potential fit when he wrote his letter of application for the Charleston School of Law. When he arrived on campus as a student, Estes approached Army JAG officers at campus events, queried Charleston School of Law alumni who completed JAG training, and watched from afar friends and colleagues in the Army.
“I’ve always kept up with my friends, followed their careers and all the cool things they’ve got to do,” he said. “I have a passion inside me to serve others, and the JAG Corps allows me to live that passion.”
“The best part about JAG is that you can work with multiple areas of the law within your career,” added Stark. “Whether that be legal assistance, prosecuting military offenses, defending service members, or dealing with national security law, it makes for a very exciting and rewarding career.”
“What drew me to the Army were the opportunities to live out the Army JAG Corps motto of ‘Soldier first, Lawyer always,’” said Estes. “You do get opportunities to do some cool things like potentially go to Airborne school or Air Assault school and participate in field exercises, but ultimately, your job is to be the attorney and provide legal services for the soldiers and advise on different engagements.
Estes and Stark began the Army Direct Commission Course in January 2023 at Fort Benning (now Fort Moore) in Columbus, Georgia. The 5 ½-week program is primarily for Judge Advocate candidates.
“It’s a crash course on basic soldiering skills, anything from land navigation skills to M4 rifle training and then squad tactics,” said Estes.
Shortly after graduating, Estes and Stark arrived at the Army Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia, to begin the Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course. “It’s really a two-part training program,” said Estes. “The Officer Basic Course training is the actual legal training.”
“I am currently in legal assistance and am dealing with a lot of family law; something I really was not interested in during law school,” said Stark. “However, now that I have clients, I can see just how much of an impact I am having in people’s lives just giving them legal advice.”
Stark is currently on a wait list and is tentatively scheduled to begin for Airborne school – or “Jump School” — this fall, where she will train to be a paratrooper. Her goal is to become a Military Justice Advisor (MJA)/Trial Counsel.
Estes is just beginning his multi-year assignment in Italy where he is working in legal assistance and client services. “I don’t know what is next, honestly,” said Estes. “I am interested in operational law and national security law, but at this point I’m just learning as much as I can and trying to be a team player. I have an open mind about the future.”
In the meantime, he plans to enjoy Italy, exploring its culture and lifestyle. When asked if there are any challenges, Estes replied, “Being away from family, friends, and my fiancé and loved ones. But thankfully, with the way things are now — I mean, we’re talking to each other halfway across the world — the communication capabilities have made it easier. But it’s difficult. I think that’s one of the main selling points of not just the Army, but the JAG Corps bonds that you can make with people.Shelby Sipe (‘22) has completed the US Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, a 10-week program in Quantico, Virginia, followed by Naval Justice School, another 10-week program in Newport, Rhode Island with the Navy and Coast Guard.
“I can say, I’m a United States Marine,” Sipe told Charleston School of Law. “That’s the end goal.”
Mary Catherine Rogers (‘22) has completed Navy Officer Development School and Naval Justice School, and is currently serving as a Judge Advocate in the Navy. Rogers served as Student Bar Association (SBA) president her 3L year at Charleston School of Law.
“It is inspiring to watch our graduates learn, lead and grow while serving in the military,” said Dean and Provost Larry Cunningham. “The Charleston School of Law opens doors for students to a variety of opportunities in the legal profession. We are grateful for our partnership with all the JAG Corps.”
“The city of Charleston has played an outsized role in the military history of the United States,” said Nick Sanders, Associate Dean of Students and Career Services. “Even today, we benefit from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard’s permanent presence within the Lowcountry community. As a result, Charleston School of Law maintains a strong connection with the JAG Corps of each military branch which results in countless opportunities for students to learn more about using their lawyer and leadership abilities to serve our country.”
This Fall, current law students will have the opportunity to network with JAG leaders to learn more about opportunities as military lawyers. Contact Career Services for more information about upcoming events.
CHARLESTON SCHOOL OF LAW QUICK FACTS
The Charleston School of Law is an ABA-accredited law school nationally recognized for its student-centric culture. Our faculty and staff are committed to preparing you for success both in the classroom and in the legal profession.
- The Princeton Review ranks Charleston School of Law professors second in the country for faculty accessibility (2021)
- Charleston School of Law faculty ranked among the top of The Princeton Review’s list of Best Professors in the nation (2016-2018)
- Experiential Learning: Charleston School of Law students have access to about more than 150 externship sites, creating opportunities for experiential learning in the legal field.
- Community Service: Charleston School of Law students have performed more than 241,000 community service hours (2004-current).
- Students have won the National Tax Moot Court Championship for seven consecutive years (2012-2018)
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The following was originally published by the South Carolina chapter for the Association of Corporate Counsel.