The judge advocate general serves as the Coast Guard’s chief legal counsel and oversees all elements of its legal program. As in other military branches, Coast Guard judge advocates also are litigators, serving as prosecutors and defenders of individuals involved in courts-martial. Coast Guard judge advocates are line officers, meaning they can serve in all other operational capacities within the service.
There are two principal ways of becoming a judge advocate in the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Advanced Education Program, the service’s equivalent of graduate school, allows officers currently serving to acquire the necessary legal training. Civilian lawyers and students in their final year of law school can enter the service via the Direct Commission Lawyer Program. In the latter case, prospective judge advocates are commissioned as lieutenants and receive five weeks of training at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., followed by two weeks of training aboard a Coast Guard ship and then 10 weeks at the Naval Justice School in Newport, R.I. Once this training is complete, the newly minted judge advocates report for duty.