Becoming an Air Force paralegal

  • Published
  • By Office of the Staff Judge Advocate
  • 341st Missile Wing
Have you ever thought about a career in the legal field? Did you know that as an enlisted member you might be eligible to retrain into the paralegal career field?

The Air Force paralegal career field has been in existence since May 1, 1955. Even before that date, paralegals played a very prominent role in the judge advocate general's department. The department's primary mission is to provide legal counsel to commanders, first sergeants and other key personnel on a broad spectrum of legal and quasi-legal matters. The paralegal’s role is to assist attorneys in performing that mission. Paralegals support virtually all areas of the legal office including military justice, claims, civil law, legal assistance, contracts and environmental law. Within these divisions, the paralegal conducts legal research, interviews witnesses and victims, and drafts opinions and documents. Paralegals also support investigations of serious incidents involving aircraft.

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. As with other career fields in the Air Force, a paralegal's training requirements consist of 3-, 5-, and 7-skill levels. The only difference is the content of the training. Paralegals attend basic and advanced paralegal courses at the Judge Advocate General School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Paralegals receive upgrade training and may also attend several specialized courses including but not limited to operational law, environmental law, contract law, will preparation, victim and witness assistance, and even federal income tax assistance. A bonus for attending these courses is that the Community College of the Air Force will provide college credit for successful completion of these courses.

You may now be interested enough to ask, "Am I eligible to retrain?" As with any retraining, you must be eligible. If you are a first-term Airman, you must be in your ‘window.’ For four year enlistees, it is between the first day of your 35th month and the last day of your 43rd month. For six year enlistees, it is the first day of your 59th month through the last day of your 67th month. If you are a second term Airman or later, your career field must be on the ‘retraining out’ list, and the job you want must be on the ‘retraining in’ list. More information on the specific entry requirements for the 5J (paralegal) career field can be found in the Air Force enlisted classification directory.

The paralegal career field is interesting and challenging. It is rewarding for individuals who are looking for a job that allows for independent work opportunities, personal growth and most importantly, a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day. If this is what you seek, then the paralegal career field may be right for you.

For more information about the paralegal career field, contact the law office superintendent, Master Sgt. Deena R. Hessler at 731-3847.