Eric Meissner is a Marine JAG who knew there would be financial benefits to joining the military. Eric had some good mentors and family members who encouraged him to attend law school.
He went in with the intention of getting a portion of his loans forgiven on behalf of the military. Eric graduated from law school with a little over $120,000 of student loan debt and his loans just came out of deferment. In this episode, we’ll be discussing his repayment options, what led to his career path as a JAG in the Marine Corps, and any tips that can help someone who’s also looking into a military career but is concerned about student loans.
In today’s episode, you’ll find out:
- What type of minor did Eric pair with his undergrad criminal justice degree?
- What led him to join the Marine Corps
- Did the military give any money for law school?
- What type of assistance the military offers
- How much debt Eric walked away with
- So what would Eric have done if he did not join the military?
- Are internships an option in the military?
- Do you get extra time added to your term if you ask for tuition assistance?
- What kind of income Eric can make as a JAG in the Marine Corps
- What the retirement system is like in the military
- Tips for law students who want to become a JAG
- Does your five-year contract with the military start while you’re still in law school?
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Episode 11 Transcript
Travis Hornsby: Welcome to Student Loan Planner podcast. I have Eric Meister with me here today. How are you doing Eric?
Eric Meister: Doing great. How are you Travis?
Travis: Eric is a brand new law school graduate.
Eric: Right. Yep that’s right.
Travis: That’s awesome. So Eric why don’t you tell all of our listeners just you know more about yourself and more about your journey.
Eric: Yeah sure thing. I guess like a short bio I’m kind of originally from San Diego California I was born there but lived in Minnesota for about 14 years. My childhood and then return to San Diego for my high school and my undergrad at San Diego State studied criminal justice not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do that kind of got my interest peeked up on law school had some good mentors and family members who just kind of encouraged me in that direction. So I started looking into it and thought you know this might be a really good career path for me. I love reading I love writing so there’s a lot of that I know as a lawyer and basically just started applying.
Eric: I took the LSAT and started applying to law schools. I’d Just gotten married at around the same time as I graduated and both my wife and I knew that we wanted to move. We want to live somewhere else kind of experience something new you know and me growing up in Minnesota I thought we could look at the Midwest. I just applied to like 20 different schools all over the Midwest to the east coast and eventually it came down to the University of Oklahoma here in Norman Oklahoma and I visited loved it the people were great schools seemed really supportive and great staff members. So I just committed and just kind of dive right in.
Travis: Yeah and you found out grad students have a preference on season football tickets right.
Travis: Yeah like that does it for me. I get to watch Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Eric: Kyler Murray yeah it’s been great.
Travis: So talk a little bit more about that process of deciding that you wanted to go to law school what was the first moment you realized you know this is what I want to do I’m going to apply at 20 schools. That’s a very high number so I’m curious what that looked like.
Eric: Well, it was kind of like I was always interested in the criminal aspects why I study criminal justice and a minor in psychology and sociology to just kind of always be interested in human behavior and kind of why people do things that they do and I enjoyed talking. I enjoyed arguing and I was like a campus tour guide at San Diego State too so I kind of enjoyed presenting things to people. And so I cast all these different things that I liked but there was nothing that kind of fit perfectly in the criminal specific field. I didn’t really want to be a police officer very much so I just don’t see myself as the breaking down doors which kind of changes later on except Kim Green. But at the time I thought that if I really have the cuts to be a police officer and so I also cut out prison guard a lot of my friends applying to be prison guards. That’s also a dangerous field.
Eric: I started just kind of talking asking people around me and asked my talk to my family what they thought. And it was really actually my mom who initially brought the idea into my brain to look into law school and thought I might be really good. You know you get to help people with issues you get to present you know solve problems for people and advocate for them and support them and that might be really good for me and that like I said I like reading writing so I actually met with one of the district attorneys out there in San Diego that was a family friend and kind of talked to her about it and she kind of also just kind of affirmed it for me like that would be a great field for me to look into. So once that happened I just I started applying now makes sense yeah. And like I said I just applied to a ton. Mostly just I didn’t want to limit myself to options with my wife and I were very open to go almost anywhere.
Eric: You know we had some exclusions but really also you know belong to ask me why would you leave San Diego. You know it’s the greatest city in the United States which is you know it’s a great vacation spot. But the reality is it’s so expensive to live there unless you’re making which you know a lot of lawyers can make that kind of money to live out there. We didn’t want that. We didn’t want to have to do that. I’ve never really been interested in the corporate kind of field and the corporate law just doesn’t survive.
Eric: But what I want to do is I want to prosecuting and you know running and gunning in the courtroom.
Travis: Yeah that makes sense so let me dig a little bit more into the cost part of things so when you apply to these 20 schools did you look at cost at all and did you have conversations with different financial aid offices about scholarships and what was the end result of the costs.
Eric: I did look into cost and that was another reason why I opted out of California law schools. What’s kind of ironic about me going to an out-of-state school is that the University of Oklahoma is tuition actually cheaper than many law schools in California which is pretty surprising and not every single one but the ones that I was looking at in California cheaper than I was like. Plus cost of living is cheaper. So when I kind of looked into it I didn’t ask them so much about it. I mean there were some that say yeah we could offer scholarships but I knew kind of going in that I wasn’t. And this is not a back on me I just I wasn’t a star-studded. Applicant. You know what I mean. Yeah, I came in with a very high LSAT score and that was fine. And I did decently in college with my GPA and stuff and I was involved so I knew I was a good applicant but I wasn’t going to be someone that they were going to be like yeah we’re going to give you all our money to have you come here.
Eric’s student loan debt balance law school
Travis: So how much did you think you were going to leave school with in student debt when you started in student debt?
Eric: I knew I’d be somewhere between at the very least $90,000 at the most and $120,000 because $120,000 seemed to be pretty average for you just in the research I’d done for law students leaving for school.
Travis: So when did you make the decision to join the Marine Corps and did you get any money for law school for that?
Eric: Yeah I made that decision really during my very first year and my second semester and you know with the Marines they were candid with me I knew that they weren’t going to pay for my schooling but they would offer kind of like tuition support so they can give you kind of like a little stipend to help you cover like books maybe a little a little tiny portion of your tuition you know.
Travis: Yeah. Why is that? Because in a lot of other professions like dentistry you know medicine or something you know the different branches will have different rules but a lot of cases they’ll cover maybe not all four years but they’ll cover you know half of it or three years or something like that for you know a four year program is the demand for people becoming you know Marine Corps lawyers just that high that the Marine Corps can basically just say hey you know we’re not going offer any scholarships or any any tuition payment.
Eric: That might be a part of it.
Eric: I know that a number of years back they did have and actually just kind of backtrack a little bit from what from I knew in my research I did look into the other branches of the military as well. None of them would pay for your schooling right away but with the Air Force, as far as I know, they might do it differently. But at the time what they did. Is they would offer you like at the end of your term or kind of while you’re in they would give you bonuses to help you pay back your loans. I think the Army has a similar program in the Navy might as well rank or used to they had like a reenlistment bonus for lawyers a number of years back that would help pay tuition. But. For whatever reason maybe a man I’m assuming it’s just budgetary it’s just you know I’m going on the budget. They just couldn’t support that anymore.
Travis: Yeah it’s interesting it seems it seems almost as if they have different rules for different professions to within the service. It is different and you know ever I’m looking at this stuff online. They always have completely separate websites for people that are you know in dentistry or medicine versus you know other career options right. So that’s yeah it’s interesting.
What Eric’s Plan B was aside from the military
Travis: So what would you have done if you had not joined the military and you joined in your first year right?
Eric: So yes, going back to that. I did. That’s when I was kind of started the process and I did go to the training after my first year and actually got injured while I was out there so they actually had to send me home. I had to reapply during my second year and I went after my second year again and completed the training.
Travis: Cool cool. So yeah and also Eric you’re a pretty new parent too right.
Eric: That’s right yeah. We have a new little girl. She’s only six weeks old at this point.
Travis: Oh my gosh. Congrats. So if you listeners if you hear any noise in the background you know I’m just amazed that Eric’s even on this podcast so how you slept I have no idea. So yeah ok so you start taking out the debt you’re taken out about you know about a hundred thousand right so is that about what you owe now.
Eric: Yeah actually I owe $120,000 and some change.
Travis: Mm hmm. So have you started making payments on that yet.
Eric: I’ve just started. I just came out of deferment but I thought to kind of talk to them about what the level I want to put it at as far as how much and given back every month.
Travis: Sure sure. So as a Marine in the JAG Corps, you know what does that look like and how does that compare with say other branches of the military.
Eric: I think as far as like the day to day operations go like what a judge advocate will do. It’s generally the same. I think I have entered that realm yet but based on everybody I’ve talked to you do a lot of the same stuff. Most of the Jags in the branches are doing starting out. Usually, prosecution and defense doing court martials as well as some general services like you know making wills and trusts doing a state work for military members. Think it’s different is like when they have you do those things like I think the Air Force usually starts you out in the general legal field like just doing that kind of general stuff I just mentioned and then kind of throw you into the court-martial after a year or two based on what I’ve heard from the Marine Corps. It’s usually you’re going to court martials. Right away.
Eric: But what really sets the Marine Corps apart from the other branches is our training because as a Marine officer we’re kind of all on level ground. Basically, the Marine Corps has their philosophies of these you know these that every Marine is a rifleman but also every Marine officer is a professional rifle platoon commander. And so that’s why we go to officer candidate school then it’s the full officer candidate school so I was there with all the ground guys grand contracts and the pilots aviation. So you’re all there together during the same training and then going to the follow on training which is the basic school and that’s where I’m going. This coming May and that is six months of just pure basic infantry training and field skills learning to be a professional rifle platoon commander. So I’m doing nothing legal until pretty much at the end of this year.
Eric: Finally under my schooling that’s unreal.
Travis: So if we got any light dentists or you know I don’t know the Marine Corps as any veterinarians for you know if you have horses at all but you know Eddie and you know other professions if you want to do your profession but also know how to shoot a gun and then join the Marine Corps is what you’re saying.
Eric: Yep and that’s what we do.
Travis: So actually one of my close buddies is a lieutenant in the Marine Corps and he I think is stationed out in Hawaii and he says that you know is his guys are so trained and so good at combat. You know that’s that’s what they’re trained to do that when you’re in Hawaii and you do not have any kind of major activities besides you know training drill all the all those things he says that the vast majority of US court martials are you know or maybe not court martial but he has to sit on duty at the desk on the weekends and basically just take calls when you know a guy gets to do a bar fight. You know they just take a drop to drop the guy off. You know he puts them you know maybe in I guess what he called the brig in the Marine Corps.
Eric: I think so.
Travis: Well he puts he puts him in that you know the cool off and you know maybe keep him there for the weekend. That’s it’s interesting. He’s like Yeah he’s like you know a lot of my lot of my job stress is just you know having to deal with guys that you know they don’t have to have a ton for them do you know. Right. Interesting. That’s cool. So what is a typical court-martial in terms of your role look like?
Eric: So I can only I can really only talk about that as far as my experience when I interned. I actually interned for the Air Force right before I went to just to just kind of see what their Jags did on a day to day. And I got to attend one court martial when I was there and it’s almost exactly like you know if you’ve ever been to a trial or been on a jury or a scene like the trials you know that really the public trials are televised very similar. You know you have a prosecution you have a defense and prosecution will get up there and you know they do opening arguments and they do you know they present their witnesses and this cross-examination you know the presentation of evidence objections you know there’s still objections and and the rules of evidence like those are as far as the military goes they’re pretty much mirror, from what I’ve heard they mirror very similarly the Federal Rules of Evidence. You know if you were a federal prosecutor or something. So that’s really all I can say. I haven’t seen it from the Marine Corps side I’ve never seen a Marine prosecute other than in a few good men. Tom Cruise and Kevin Bacon. That’s great. It’s a great resource to you know.
Travis: Yeah. I was just wondering if you’ve prosecuted a Jack Nicholson’s yet.
Eric: Definitely not.
Travis: Ok. So for me in terms of commitment that you have to make to the core what do you have to come in that you did they didn’t pay for any school so I’m assuming that you know you don’t have some lengthy contract with them that maybe you could talk a little bit about that.
Eric: Sure. The basic commitment is four years of active duty service and then four years in the inactive reserve which you’re not a reservist not drilling in that time. But you know basically if World War Three kicked off and they called you up and you’d have to go. But that’s for your basic commitment. I did take a little bit of tuition assistance to help pay for my books and stuff. And when you do that they’re like OK we’ll tack on another year to your term. So I have a five year contract which I was ok with. That’s like his job security.
Travis: What kind of income can you make as a JAG in the Marine Corps.
Eric: So starting out it’s very comparable to what many when I’ve researched like what an average attorney leaving law school will be making excluding those who go work for Big Law corporate firms you know those are the folks who.
Eric: We’re making six figures. It’s not that but it’s roughly around like sixty thousand as is what I would say roughly in between $60,000 and $70,000 depending on you know if you are prior enlisted you already have some time in service and you might get some more extra pay. And that’s including your basic pay as well as basic allowance for housing and basic allowance for subsistence which is like food and stuff so you get additional things additional payments not just your basic pay and plus when you factor in the health care plan being on Tricare I mean like full medical and full dental it’s all covered which is really nice to have.
Travis: And the housing benefits tax free isn’t it. It is. Yes you know $60,000 or $70,000 it’s about the same as you’d make as a lot of jobs as an attorney quite honestly maybe even like you know small family law kind of operation or you know private practice that’s typical $60,000 to $80,000 is what I’ve seen outside a big law for a lot of attorneys.
Eric: Yeah. And even you’re like in Oklahoma I was kind of looking if I wasn’t doing the military I knew that kind of wanted to stay in criminal. I want to be in the courtroom I wanted to trial litigation. I was looking at the district attorneys out here and like a new very new law graduate entering a district attorney’s office as an ADA. I mean out here it’s only like $40,000 really what they’re making which is rough when you have that much debt.
Travis: Wow. So talking about that a little bit more. So say you’re making like $60,000 or $70,000 and you’re you know your housing’s covered most your living expenses to cover your health insurance you don’t have to worry about in terms of how you would pay your student loan debt is your wife earning an income right now. She’s not OK. So one income families so say you’re making $60,000 to $70,000 and have you heard about the TSP the Thrift Savings Plan. Yes. So I think you can contribute to that as a Marine right. Yeah. See you put you know $19,000 in your TSB it’s the maximum that you can contribute so you lower your income down from sixty thousand let’s say to forty one thousand. So I just put in some numbers just for kicks just to see what your cost would look like over 10 years and your monthly payment would be would start off at about $136 a month on something like Pay As You Earn. And if you summed up 10 years worth of payments if you stayed in the core then your 10 year cost of payments would be about $18,700
Travis: So you know you’ve got $120,000 of debt if you play your cards right and if you decide to work full time and stay in the Corps for 10 years then you’re gonna get a total balance of about $185,000 because the balance would keep growing that amount would be forgiven tax free and your total cost of your education would only be about $18,700 . So that’s almost like they did cover school for free. Pretty close to it as long as you stay in the core. What kind of thoughts do you have about that do you think you’re going to make the Marine Corps career you little insure yet. Well to see how it goes what are your thoughts.
Eric: My wife and I have kind of agreed that we’re going to take it as we go take each contract as we go. Obviously the public service loan forgiveness is a huge huge motivation to stay in at least 10 years and then at that point I mean you’re halfway to the 20 year retirement so we’re kind of like maybe we’ll just long as the Marine Corps wants me to stay and I’ll stay in because then you’re getting additional retirement and then going to get to work another career. So I’ll only be like 45 or 46 when I reach my 20 years
Travis: And you know that’s the real danger there because that military pension is fantastic. Right. So you know I mean if you do 10 years or PSLF you know if you want to look at the guaranteed you know money that you get you know for retirement in terms of what you’d have to save to get that I think it’s probably a million dollars or more. And if you run the math you know how much you get for a pension when you do the 20 years as an officer could be wrong. OK in fact check me but I believe it’s half of your monthly paycheck or whatever whatever your last earning like your last highest paycheck but it’s half of that every month.
Travis: And does that start right away or does that start at a certain age.
Eric: They actually just incorporated a new retirement system for the military. The Blended Retirement System BRS is the acronym. And as far as that goes If I’m understanding it correctly that does not come right away. You have to wait till I’m but I believe you’re 65 to start collecting if you’re in the traditional retirement which I had the option of choosing which one then you would be able to start collecting right away. But for most people who are joining right now they won’t get a choice that’s going to be the blended retirement is becoming the default the standard that makes sense.
Eric: So it’s a little bit harder to get that amazing pension at the age of like 42 or something right now.
Travis: I mean well if you think about that though you still have pretty well an amazing you know amount of guaranteed income that’ll start if not in your 40s it’ll start later and will probably be more money at that point. So that’s a really kind of amazing deal I think for a lawyer now in the medical field. You know if you’re a dentist or a physician you can make a lot more money outside of the service and you can as a lawyer too. But in the field of medicine you’re kind of I think doing kind of similar type work maybe not exactly of course but you know what I mean like you’re doing you know surgeries and you be doing surgeries in the private sectors at least that’s kind of like somewhat similar.
Travis: But you know I guess as a big law attorney you know you’re maybe doing some corporate work or a state work or something like that whereas you know you’re in the military doing your work you know you’re making I think a lot more money than you know a career prosecutor might make would you say that’s fair. I mean what would what are your thoughts on that.
Eric: I think that would probably be fair and not in the long run. I know federal prosecutors they make pretty good money the U.S. attorneys but yeah like state attorneys and I guess the district attorneys you’ll get there I think if you put in your time you stay there or if you work there for a little while and then maybe go on to like a big law firm or something like that. But as far as the military goes I think it’s pretty good from the get go and it only gets better in my opinion. And then it just continues to build.
Law schools and student loan debt
Travis: So also what do you think about what’s going on with law schools right now? It just seems like you know a lot of the ones are downsizing their class sizes. Law schools are competing for students more but but I’m not an attorney and you are a JD so maybe you can share your opinion on that.
Eric: I mean I haven’t really tracked with that. I haven’t been following what law schools have been doing as far as recruitment goes. I can say that’s OK.
Travis: Well what about the people that you go to school with that you went to school at the University of Oklahoma. You know what conversations you had with them. Any of your classmates. What kind of career paths were they pursuing and how did they feel about the student loan Dad. What were some of those plans that people might have talked about or maybe they talked about the cost of law school or job prospects or something like that.
Eric: As far as where they were going. It ran the gamut. Some people were really bold and wanted to go out and open their own shop hang around their little roof which is bold I think to do what people were going to work for the district attorney’s. Quite a few of the top students you know usually it’s typical to see this they go to the big law firms they’re out here in Oklahoma City and in Tulsa where I assume I didn’t talk to them about how they’re going to pay back because I I basically saying that they’re making money they’re going to build to pay back their loans starting out because they were the ones who went to those big law firms and they’re going to put in that work and make those big paychecks in the get go and that as far as students working for our local government working for the state or working for the district attorneys I assume they’re probably just making their minimum payments whatever they can afford to pay back.
Eric: I actually have not. Whatever it is I never talk to them about PSLF even though I knew about it in my head going into the Marine core and asking me my plan. I really talked to them about it so I hope that they know it and if they don’t I’ll send them the links to your web site so they can get educated on it. I think that’s still a great option for those working for the you know if you’re going to work for the district attorney. I’m pretty confident that would that would totally qualify for PSLF.
Travis: Yeah that’s that’s a great point. Do you know I probably don’t know what what the typical salaries are for big law for those top students in Oklahoma.
Eric: No, I couldn’t say I just I assume it’s six figures at the minimum. I’m sure maybe some of them are around the average of the $120,000 that I know a lot of students from like the like the Tier 1 law school’s students who are going to work for the really big firms who are who will be making that much. It might be that they’re like maybe for a couple of students by not not a lot of them but other than that I don’t know.
Travis: I mean that makes sense. But my guess is probably low six figures because you know you’re your New York City big law like the most prestigious firms or like $190,000 kind of salaries. So I would assume that you know you’d probably be like $110,000 or $120,000 but I’m not an expert at that regional cost. Look like you know I pulled up the Oklahoma law school just tuition and it’s kind of amazing to me how different the cost can be depending on where you go. So the resident annual cost that they’re estimating is like $21,000 a year. So you know three years of that you know $67,000 tackle on some accrued interest that’s $70,000 and then you know maybe you have some living expenses that you borrow. So the $120,000 that you did a great job keeping your expenses down as a non-resident because it says that the non-resident cost is about $32,000 per year. So yeah I mean I hear people all the time see people all the time that are clients coming out of you know more higher cost programs on the coasts and and and you know Middle America too.
Travis: That have way more than that for the in-state resident rate of tuition. That’s interesting it seems like I see this trend in other fields too like Texas and Oklahoma medical programs will often have lower debt than the rest of the country maybe because of the oil resources or something I don’t know. Yeah. So that’s interesting.
Travis: So do you know if any of your friends that you went to law school had significantly more than $120,000 like anyone who didn’t plan well or they maybe had a lot more children or something like that.
Eric: I mean I would assume that would probably be the case for some. I kind of felt like the student loan debt was kind of like it’s almost like a curse word when you’re in school you don’t really want to talk about it you want to know it’s there. You just want to focus on your schooling. Yeah. I never asked anybody like or how much you have because it’s kind of like the white elephant in the room we didn’t want to acknowledge it.
Travis: You know I can be really awkward right. Like how broke are you?
Eric: I Know exactly.
Travis: Oh well I don’t have any student debt. My parents are multimillionaires. Oh you have $300,000. Oh that sucks.
Eric: Right yeah right. Exactly.
Travis: So I guess then you’re doing OK in terms of the law program. Seems like people are mostly getting pretty decent jobs that are in the legal field. Did you have kind of any when the people that were struggling to get employment from their law school degree or was it across the board people were doing OK. I think as far as everybody who I was like acquainted with like we were on a first name basis and we could have a conversation.
Eric: Because a lot of ago I didn’t know. Still a big enough law school I didn’t know everybody from the people I knew everybody I knew had a job coming out or they got one very soon after graduating and completing the bar exam. That’s good. So it is it’s very promising and what you are has pretty good rates of employment. I mean where we are where the number one law school in the state of Oklahoma. Oh you is such a household name in this state that I think that speaks a lie if you’re going to stay here in Oklahoma.
How to use your law degree to become a JAG
Travis: That makes sense. So what would you suggest? So let’s say we have some listener that’s listening and thinks wow you know the idea of being the core or you know being in another branch of service and using my law degree to be a JAG is really exciting. What would you recommend to that person, what are some things that they should try to do and maybe steps that they could take to be competitive and to get accepted?
Eric: Sure. And that’s going to vary I think a little bit only a little bit from branch to branch obviously. It’s always great to have high grades you know. You don’t have to. I’ve pretty much always been the middle of the line kind of guy and that’s how I was. Oh you lied to us like just below the middle of the line actually. But I still got my I still got my job. So as far as you know what I would advise so obsolete good grades just do it the best you can. Most military what they’re going to look for especially in the Marine Corps. It’s like some leadership experience. Would you be great if you have prior employment or if you’re just really involved in your undergrad and if you weren’t maybe taking on something at the law school with one of the organizations or something like that taking on a leadership role somewhere. I would advise taking classes that are courtroom oriented.
Eric: So taking I mean I think evidence is required from most law schools is required. Oh yes definitely evidence. Taking the criminal law courses but also if your school has some sort of like trial experience classes like moot court and doing a moot court competition or like some sort of like trial team those go a long way because that will show them that hey you’re interested in litigating. You’ve gotten some experience doing it will be very attractive for those who are you know for the recruiters who are looking at you and you know when it comes to specifically the Marine Corps.
Eric: My advice would be in addition to all of that is also being physically fit. You have to go in there and show them that you can keep up and you’re not going to break down. And I mean just because ISIS is so physically demanding and that’s very different than the other branches and that I can say with some certainty because I’ve spoken to like the Air Force Jags that are out here at Tinker Air Force Base when I worked there their training after they were accepted into their program I mean it wasn’t that bad. They have their own little like dorm room and they don’t clean it up. They have people who come and clean the room and they kind of have to do some they do some basic physical training and you know they might and the instructors or whatever might tell them to like do some pushups or something but it’s not that bad because they’re just trying to make you into a basic officer.
Eric: They want you to know how to salute and be a professional of course. But when it comes to the Marine Corps I mean you’re getting. I mean you just look up like Full Metal Jacket boot camp. That’s what you’re going to experience. ED Yes. They’re going to get in your face they’re yelling and screaming at you you’re going to make you as stressed out as they can for 10 weeks. So it’s serious when you’re going in the Marine Corps route but the great thing about the Marine Corps. What I would say to those who are listening. Is they are at least right now as far as I know they’re the only program that will take you as a first year law student and you can go to training like right away and they respect that like they, for example, say we have you know heaven forbid another Iraq war.
Travis: Right. And the Corps has needs like they would allow you to finish law school and not call you up. Are there any guarantees there.
Eric: As far as I know they let you finish school Your only obligation to them at that point is to graduate law school. OK. Once you’ve accepted your commission I’m pretty sure they couldn’t call you up but who knows.
Travis: Yeah and the commitment would be you know it starts when you graduate I’m assuming right it doesn’t start like your five year contract doesn’t start after first year of law school.
Eric: No it will start once you go on active duty status as far as I know.
Travis: Well you know you can’t get it all right. So if you want to join the country club join the Air Force and if you want to actually become a Marine join the Marines.
Eric: Yes and it’s definitely. That’s different culture it’s a different lifestyle. All that stuff. So there’s no I’m not trying to knock on any other branches. I’m just I’m just kind of telling how I’ve heard it and I can only speak from what I’ve experienced.
Travis: When do they make you go to OCS. It’s like the boot camp the ten weeks of you know getting yelled at and having to do all this intense stuff like When was that in the journey?
Eric: That was in between my first and second years.
Eric: So during the summer to 10 week course during the summer starting like beginning of June and going until like mid August. But then I go back again after my second year. So like while all my friends were doing internships at law firms and working for district attorneys or ever I was out there getting my face kicked in. It’s a different experience but you are getting paid. That’s a good thing. You do get paid to be. Yes. There’s a lot of students don’t always get paid internships during the summer so that can be good. But you are sacrificing that summer if you are wanting to gain some legal experience.
Would Eric do anything differently if he had to do it all over again?
Travis: Cool. So Eric if you had to do it all over again would you do anything differently?
Eric: No I definitely wouldn’t. I think this was the best path for me knowing that I wanted to do want to challenge myself and I wanted to have a career that will kind of throw me in the thick of it from the beginning and get go and that’s really what I wanted I wanted to be. I want to be in the courtroom as soon as possible gaining that legal experience. I think that’s great. I think it makes you very attractive for when you get out of the JAG Corps and especially for me. Like I said I mentioned earlier I was kind just an average student. I wasn’t one of the superstars there and I didn’t do like the big things that what law students kind of talk about like doing law review or interning for these big firms. I didn’t do that stuff.
Eric: So I knew that I might not be super attractive just coming straight out of law school. But after my time in the military pretty confident that I will be attracted to a wide range of employers at that point. So for me it’s kind of like this is going to be the good thing that will help me get that experience that I need to make myself more attractive. I I wouldn’t necessarily do anything different except I would have liked to have finished the very first time I went instead of having to go twice that way I could have done a summer of some legal work just getting some more legal experience but that makes sense now.
Travis: Last question What advice do you have out there for a brand new law student or a brand new attorney. What advice or suggestions would you give them.
Eric: You know I would. As far as a good new student goes I would advise you to like don’t be shy about exploring different opportunities. Dip your toes in a line a little bit of everything. Some people come into law school thinking I am going to be a prosecutor or I am going to do contracts like transactional work. I think it’s good to dip your toes in a little bit of everything if you can. If you have the opportunities like go work for a judge and see what it’s like from that from that side of the courtroom or you know yeah maybe intern for a a firm that maybe you wouldn’t think I might not love but you never know you might end up loving it.
Eric: That’s something else I would have done if I had more time but because my summers were taken up doing all that military training I didn’t really get as many of those opportunities but I did get the chance to work for like a solo practice. At one point for one semester and that was really interesting to see how you know how that works how that attorney handles his business and runs his business. And then I was able to do the internship for it for the Air Force. That’s I think that was all all very good to that. I think that would be my biggest piece of advice. You know don’t be shy about exploring a little bit as you work your way through through law school and it ends quick. So you know you don’t want to let you know what I mean. Now is the time to do it is basically what I’m trying to get at.
Travis: Yeah yeah seriously. And that’s a great spot to leave it on. It’s a big deal where you can cut you know $120,000 of law school debt down to projected cost of like you know $18,000 with PLSF right. That’s life changing that’s you know a whole year and a half to two years worth of income. So it just it’s real important to get the stuff right and just a note to the readers if you want to see the notes for this episode today you just go to studentloanplanner.com/011 the number of the episode and then also you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to leave a comment or have a question. And finally studentloanplanner.com/help if you want to get some assistance figuring out your law school loans or other student loan debt. So thanks so much Eric for being on the show.
Eric: Yeah. Thanks for having me. Travis.
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