Mohamed Al-Darsani ’12, Army Jag Officer, was recently appointed Military Magistrate. We recently caught up with him to discuss his experience in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps and appointment.
What prompted your interest in the JAG Corps?
The military has always fascinated me. I enlisted in the Army right after high school. I served in the Regular Army, the Florida Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve. My time in the military had its ups and downs, but the Army culture, the people I met and the experiences I had were truly amazing. The time came, however, when I needed to take my life in a different direction. I wanted to be an attorney. The JAG Corps presented me with a unique opportunity to serve my country as a Soldier and officer in the Army and as an attorney. It was a perfect situation for me.
What was the training like?
All new Army JAG officers are put through some initial legal and tactical training. The legal training is conducted at the University of Virginia, which houses The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (TJAGLCS). Most of the training you receive there is military specific, although the curriculum certainly covers things that are helpful in civilian practice. The tactical skills are taught in the Direct Commission Course at Fort Benning, GA. That course focuses on teaching new JAGs how and what it means to be officers in the Army, as well as some basic combat and soldiering skills (i.e. weapons training, water survival, combative training, etc…). There are other training opportunities for JAG Attorneys. The TJAGLCS offers several continuing education programs, including a fully accredited LLM program. JAGS can also attend military specific schools, such as the Army’s Airborne School or Ranger School.
Tell us what your job as a claims attorney and magistrate?
I am currently assigned to the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Benning, GA. My current positions are Tort Claims Attorney and Military Magistrate. As a claims attorney I represent the Army in claims that are filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act or the Military Claims Act. As a military magistrate I make decisions concerning pretrial confinement, and search, seizure and apprehension authorizations. That is just the legal side of being in the JAG Corps. I am also an officer in the United States Army and I have responsibilities outside the practice of law. That, I believe, is what makes being an attorney in the Army so different from civilian practice. It is also what makes my job so exciting. For example, in addition to working my cases as an attorney, back in May I was tasked with coordinating training for a Department of State delegation from the Palestinian Territories. It was a great experience.
How did your experience at FIU Law prepare you for your career?
My experiences at FIU Law set me up for success. The Army is not simply looking for people who know the law, they are looking for good leaders and problem solvers. I feel like FIU Law gave me a chance to develop myself in all of those areas. First and foremost, the legal education I received at FIU was everything I could have asked for. The professors I had were brilliant, and they took their jobs as educators seriously– both in and out of the classroom. Moreover, FIU Law encouraged us to develop ourselves in more ways than simply taking classes. My involvement with student organizations gave me a chance to take on challenging leadership responsibilities. The administration was able to help me get an externship on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where I had a chance to work with some incredible folks and work on some pretty prominent issues. All of that, I feel, set me apart from other applicants and gave me the confidence and experience to do my job well.
What advice do you have for students interested in a similar career path?
My advice to anyone interested in joining the JAG Corps is for them to first learn about the Army. See if this is really what they want. Then make a point to get involved in activities and do things that will highlight their moral character, work ethic and attitude. From what I can tell, there is not one correct path to landing this job. Folks that were accepted in my class came from all walks of life. Some were educated at elite law schools, others were not. Some had prior military experience, most did not. If this is what you want, apply! If you do not get in on the first try, try again.