Career Paths: Jenna Callahan ’15L
As a third year law student, Jenna Callahan is splitting time her last semester between Lexington, VA, and Washington D.C. Jenna works for the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse Clinic on campus, defending inmates on death row. She also serves as President of the Sports, Entertainment, & IP Law Society on campus. On Thursdays and Fridays, Jenna interns with the United States Air Force in the Legal Aid Office. She has recently received an offer to work as a Judge Advocate General upon graduation. She has been accepted into the JAG Corps for both the Army Active Duty and Reserves and Air Force Active Duty.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in JAG? Have you had any externships or experiences at law school that pointed you in that direction?
During my first year of law school, I was evaluating what field of law I might want to practice. I was an athlete most of my life, playing baseball, softball, running, and doing gymnastics. I really enjoyed the sports industry and thought Sports Law was fascinating, so I got involved with the Sports Society on campus. As a result, I interned my first summer at ASA/USA Softball in Oklahoma City. This was a phenomenal experience and I could certainly see myself continuing in that line of work.
Last year, however, my mother passed away and I began reevaluating my career goals. I still really enjoyed the arena of athletics, but I wanted to make more of an immediate difference in my community. Growing up, my mother spent her weekends volunteering as a nurse in New York City, and she taught me the importance of community service. I have always devoted time in my life to public service because of her, and two particular experiences still really resonate with me today. First, when I was in middle school, the Twin Towers fell a mere 30 miles from my house after the September 11th terrorist attacks. I spent much of that year supporting families in my community. My second experience was when I travelled to Guatemala to do human rights service in 2010. My peers and I travelled to destitute areas to learn, teach citizens their rights, and help them obtain basic necessities. Throughout these two experiences, I was able to see, both on a domestic and international scale, just how important it is that we fight to preserve the basic rights of citizens and ensure their safety. I reminisced about these experiences after my mom’s passing and used this reflection period to refocus my goals after graduation. It has been really important to me that I honor my mother and carry on her philanthropic spirit.
I first saw the JAG application process appear on Washington and Lee Law’s Symplicity website. Once I began researching this opportunity, I could not believe I had not thought about JAG before. Becoming a Judge Advocate General would allow me to serve my country, protect those I love, and practice law. I would be able to travel and help many different people throughout the world. It is also a field where an athletic background is appreciated, which is what initially attracted me to Sports Law. Most importantly, joining the military would allow me to build a community for myself that I could call my family. I poured most of fall semester into the JAG application process and received an offer of employment over Winter Break.
Describe the application and interview process for JAG. What was most interesting or surprising about that experience?
The application process is much more extensive than the typical legal job application. The application itself is somewhere near 20 pages, and it is absolutely not an application you can just throw together. The first part asks you some basic personal information. You are then required to submit official undergraduate and law school transcripts, and describe in detail all extracurricular activities as well as past employment history you have had throughout your educational experience. You are also asked about Bar exam plans, required to submit a resume, write a personal statement, reply to several short answer questions, and it is recommended you provide several letters of recommendation as well as a 10-page writing sample.
In addition to the paper application, each applicant must interview with a Field Screening Officer or Staff Judge Advocate depending on the branch. This is where the Board receives a window into your personality and evaluates whether or not you are a good fit for the military. This was my favorite part of the application process. The individuals that interview you are very down-to-earth and informal, which I was not expecting. They are kind and eager to answer any questions you may have. If selected, these individuals also continue to support your throughout your commissioning process.
Do you know where you will be placed and what sort of work you will be doing? If not, what do you hope for?
I don’t have a clue at this point where I will be a year from now. I am hoping to go somewhere warm in the United States or else live in Japan. The wonderful thing about the military is there are plenty of opportunities to travel.
In what ways has your experience at W&L Law prepared you for JAG?
Like with any field of law, the best preparation you can do for a legal career is to attend a great school. Washington and Lee Law has provided me with a wonderful education. My teachers have worked with me on an individualized basis and truly want to see me succeed. I also believe that Lexington cultivates a very warm environment where it is easy to grow on a personal level. I am very appreciative for my time here and plan to get the most out of my last semester.