Like many law students, Rebecca Vernon entered law school ready to learn, and graduated feeling compelled to serve. In her case, she went on to serve her country in the U.S. Air Force, where she’s been for the last 24 years. In July 2020, the New England Law grad’s persistence and dedication led to her being promoted to the prestigious level of Brigadier General.
From Law Student to JAG
Though law school was in her plan for quite some time, Vernon hadn’t considered the Air Force as a possible next step until sitting down for an informational interview through New England Law’s Career Services Office. She was so compelled by the Air Force captain that she met, and her passion for her job, that Vernon decided to apply to join the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps). She was accepted into the program and started with the Air Force shortly after finishing up her JD.
The JAG Corps gives law professionals the opportunity to provide legal services to the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Space Force, and the service members of those branches. JAGs gain immediate litigation experience as prosecutors, while simultaneously practicing in various areas of the law. Legal practice areas include criminal, environmental, contracts, labor, claims and tort litigation, legal assistance, international, air and space, medical, cyber, and operations law. Vernon started her career as a prosecutor then served as defense counsel, and then a contracts lawyer. She went on to instruct at the Air Force’s Montgomery, Alabama, JAG School, before taking on a role helping to make JAG assignments.
Related: Meet Law School Professors: Victor Hansen, Military Law
Advancing as a Lawyer in the Air Force
The Air Force also provides JAGs with the opportunity to obtain a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in various areas of the law. Over the course of her career, Vernon completed an LL.M. in Government Procurement and earned a Master of Science in National Security Strategy. Today, Vernon, who was the 2019 recipient of the Air Force Association Outstanding Senior Attorney Award, works in military justice, playing a vital role in the Air Force’s criminal justice system.
Vernon comments that the Air Force puts great emphasis on developing JAGs by providing a wide range of training and experience. This sets them up to be effective decision makers and excel in future roles. She notes, “In order to be successful in the JAG Corps as a senior officer or in a leadership position, it’s vital that you have a fundamental understanding of the mission and our various legal practice areas in order to advise senior leaders on the complex decisions at that level.” Vernon adds that the opportunity to practice in a variety of areas over the last two decades is one of the many reasons why she enjoys her line of work so much.
An Emphasis on Service
Looking back, Vernon reminisces about her time at New England Law and the values that were instilled in her while she was learning here: “If there’s one word that I could use to sum up what I learned at New England Law, it would be ‘service.’ There was always a focus on service: How can you serve others? How can you go out and serve your community?” She adds that learning alongside a group of classmates aspiring to pursue a variety of different careers—some looking to work in business, others looking to pursue public service or work in the armed services—also really enhanced the experience as a whole.
As Vernon continues her career in the Air Force, she’ll do so working alongside a number of other New England Law alumni who were eager to pursue similar paths. New England Law honors Brigadier General, Rebecca R. Vernon, for both her service and her remarkable achievements. More information about the Air Force JAG Corps and the application process is available at www.airforce.com/jag and on their Facebook and LinkedIn pages.
For those already serving, learn more about how military service prepares you for law school.