Air Force Paralegal: Immediate Challenge, Immediate Opportunity!

By Master Sgt. Jamie Murray
AFFTC/Judge Advocate

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- When Airmen enlist, they swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. In addition to defending the geographic territory and populace of the United States, paralegals defend the rule of law and the freedoms that the Constitution awards citizens.

Paralegals defend the Constitution by advising commanders on operational matters, defending the Air Force from lawsuits, helping enforce criminal laws and helping Air Force members find just and peaceful resolution of disputes that arise. In representing the Air Force and Air Force members, paralegals defend the Constitution by ensuring the law is correctly and fairly applied in every situation faced by clients.

The Air Force is currently looking to expand its paralegal force. As an enlisted member, Airmen may be eligible to re-train into the paralegal career field.

The primary mission of The Judge Advocate General's Department is to provide legal counsel to commanders, first sergeants, and other key personnel on a broad spectrum of legal matters. The paralegal's role is to assist judge advocates (attorneys) in achieving that mission. Consequently, paralegals support virtually all areas of the Air Force's legal practice, including operations law, military justice, claims, civil law, legal assistance, contracts, labor law and environmental law. Within these areas, paralegals conduct legal research, interview witnesses and victims, draft legal opinions, create and notarize powers of attorney and draft wills. Paralegals also support investigations of serious incidents, such as aircraft, missile or rocket accidents.

To ensure paralegals are qualified to support these many legal areas, the department provides the necessary training, both on-the-job and in the classroom. Paralegals attend basic and advanced paralegal courses at the Judge Advocate General's School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and may also attend specialized legal courses. Recently, the American Bar Association has certified the paralegal Community College of the Air Force degree as an accredited degree, making it easier to continue in the legal field after leaving active duty status.

There is no deadline for career Airmen but first-term Airmen must meet the requirements set by the Air Force Personnel Center. Specifically, four-year enlistees cannot apply before their 35th month and six-year enlistees cannot before their 59th month. From the department's perspective, the minimum qualifications include the ability to type 25 words per minute, a minimum AQE score of 51 and no derogatory information in their records.

The paralegal career field can be extremely interesting and very challenging. It is rewarding for individuals who are looking for a job that provides independence in their work, personal growth, and most importantly, a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day. Paralegal may be the job for Airmen who are interested and eligible to retrain. To submit retraining applications, contact the Employment section of the Military Personnel Flight. For more information about the paralegal career field, contact the Law Office manager, Master Sgt. Jamie Murray at (661) 277-9613.