By Kerry L. Erisman
Faculty Member, Legal Studies
Are you an active-duty officer or noncommissioned officer thinking about going to law school? Did you know the military services have a program that may allow you to attend law school at the military’s expense and then serve as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps of your respective service?
If you are a go-getter and meet the program qualifications, all of this is possible by applying to the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP).
Funded Legal Education Program History
The program is authorized under 10 U.S. Code sec. 2004, which provides that the Secretary of each military department may detail up to 25 officers and enlisted members as students at accredited U.S. law schools each fiscal year.
The FLEP started in 1974, and the JAG Corps of each of the services has “relied on FLEP officers to provide peer leadership among captains and to leverage their ready-made experience with our client,” according to Colonel Emily Schiffer, Chief of Personnel, Plans, & Training Office, Office of The Judge Advocate General. Colonel Schiffer further noted that the “FLEP wants to invest in leadership by attracting applicants who are confident, humble, and selfless leaders who will commit to their teammates and a JAG Corps career for the right reasons.”
Eligibility Includes a Bachelor’s Degree and at Least a Secret Security Clearance
To be eligible for the FLEP, you must be an active duty servicemember in the grades of 0-1 to 0-3 or E-5 to E-7. You must have a bachelor’s degree and possess at least a secret security clearance. Officers must have between two and six years of active duty service as of the law school’s start date. Noncommissioned officers must have between four and eight years of active duty service as of the law school’s start date.
You will also need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT tests the skills necessary to successfully complete law school. The test includes reading comprehension, reasoning, and writing. There are numerous study aids available to assist in preparing for the LSAT, so it’s wise to research the available aids before beginning the studying process for the exam. Because you’ll want to score as high as possible on the LSAT, give yourself plenty of time to study prior to taking the exam. Your score will be an important factor when evaluating your overall file.
What Does the JAG Corps Do?
What is the JAG Corps? What do judge advocates do? Is it really for me? Judge advocates are critical advisors to commanders at all levels on a wide number of issues, ranging from military justice to the use of lethal force in combat. New judge advocates gain immediate, real-world experience by practicing in a wide variety of exciting legal areas. You may begin in legal assistance, helping servicemembers with their legal issues to ensure they are mission-focused and ready to deploy at all times.
Legal assistance attorneys help servicemembers with wills and estate planning, powers of attorney, landlord-tenant laws, consumer protection disputes, taxes, and divorce and separation issues.
Judge advocates also serve as administrative law attorneys reviewing important investigations and discharge boards, as well as interpreting federal statutes and regulatory laws that govern military installations and servicemembers.
Military attorneys also serve as prosecutors and defense attorneys at military courts-martial and administrative separation boards, advising commanders on issues affecting good order and discipline within the unit. Judge advocates working in National Security Law also advise commanders directly on mission-related issues and deploy on all combat missions, advising on the legality of proposed targets and the development of rules of engagement. Finally, as technology becomes more integral to our national defense, judge advocates are involved in areas such as cyber and intelligence law.
The FLEP Experience
FLEP participants apply to join the JAG Corps for a variety of reasons. The desire to serve fellow servicemembers as an attorney and a sense of duty to the country are high on the list.
Captain Zach Simons was an infantry officer who heard about the FLEP as a second lieutenant. He was considering getting out of the Army and going to law school but decided first to apply to the FLEP. Captain Simons was accepted and attended American University’s Washington College of Law. He told the Army news website that the FLEP allows servicemembers “to pursue their career goals and enable the Army to retain talent.”
Captain Emily Bobenrieth attended the United States Military Academy and was commissioned into the Army in 2011. She heard of the FLEP while at West Point and knew she wanted to become an Army lawyer. Captain Bobenrieth applied to the FLEP at the first opportunity and was selected for the program. She attended law school at the University of Colorado and has been in the JAG Corps since graduation. Captain Bobenrieth told Colorado Law that she serves in the JAG Corps because she wanted “to contribute to society, be part of a team, and serve a cause bigger than myself.” She has held numerous assignments within the JAG Corps.
When to Apply to the FLEP
Watch for a personnel message from your service as to when to apply to the FLEP. For example, the Army typically announces the FLEP around February of each year and the board meets in December. The current Army personnel message is located at www.hrc.army.mil. The Army FLEP application period is from August 1 to November 1, 2021. For more information on the Army program, see JARO (army.mil)
There are numerous steps associated with the application, so begin working on it well before the due date. You will want to submit the strongest possible packet so as to shine the best light on your potential to succeed in law school and beyond in the JAG Corps. Contact your local Office of the Staff Judge Advocate to find out more about the program.
For More Information
Air Force: go to: U.S. Air Force – Active duty military
Marine Corps: go to: www.hqmc.marines.mil/sja/flep_elp/