Career Paths: Marshall Branch ’23L After graduation, Marshall Branch will join the U.S. Army JAG Corps.
Marshall Branch ’23L is from Houston, Texas. He attended the University of Texas, where he received a B.A. in Government. After college, he worked on a congressional campaign before applying to law school.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in JAG?
I have always held a passion to serve in the military in some capacity, while also carrying legal interests. I thought Army JAG offered the best opportunity for me to dually serve as both a soldier and attorney without compromising on either component.
Have you had any externships or experiences at law school that pointed you in that direction?
My 1L summer I interned for a federal judge in Texas that provided me with a lot of litigation experience in court. During my 2L summer, I also gained an extensive understanding of military law while working under JAG officers at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, D.C. During this time, I was able to observe several military courts of appeals in operation and immerse myself into the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Describe the application and interview process for JAG. What was the most interesting or surprising thing about that experience?
Usually completing an internship with a military branch is a major part of the application process. It is largely a holistic screening that covers a multitude of areas. Typically, the JAG Boards prefer for applicants to acquire some litigation skills through Trial Advocacy courses, Mock Trial, or other related experiences. I also found that having a natural, genuine motive for being able to tell them why you want this can be very compelling. Also, unlike other attorney roles, you have to go through several military medical evaluations, which is an anomaly to say the least. I kept myself from playing intramural flag football at the law school this past fall because I was honestly concerned I would plant funny or something and tear my ACL—medical risk management was definitely on my mind.
Do you know where you will be placed and what sort of work will you be doing? If not, what do you hope for?
You have the opportunity to practice in many different areas of the law, which is partly what attracted me to initially pursue the military lawyer route early on in my legal career. I think I would enjoy working in operational law and litigation in the future. Operational law I find to have the most direct connection with the movement of our troops overseas and is extremely fascinating content. Litigation can be special due to the adrenaline rush you get being in court – it is a neat type of energy not found elsewhere.
In what ways has your experience at W&L prepared you for JAG?
W&L has prepared me for JAG in many ways. The liberal arts legal education offered by W&L is unique in comparison to other law schools across the country that do not offer such a diverse curriculum with small class sizes. There really is not another top “liberal arts” classified law school. I think the most rewarding experiences have been through gaining real world skills in practicum courses. Taking Trial Advocacy with Judge Carson, a W&L Law alum from Roanoke, was extremely enlightening. His style of teaching offered a refreshing approach that I think developed the entire class to be much more effective litigators and professionals. I also appreciated taking Legal Research with Professor Runge as a 1L. He provided my section with tangible skills, amidst a pandemic, that I still use regularly to this day. This diverse skillset has been vital to my preparation for Army JAG.
Outside Law School
Following college football
Favorite Location in Lexington/W&L Campus
Advice for Prospective Law Student
Focus on “the forest” and not “the trees.”
Something/Someone you will miss at W&L Law
I have personally enjoyed transnational and comparative law courses with Professor Mark Drumbl. He is one of the most brilliant, freethinking minds I have ever had throughout undergrad and law school.
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