Army paralegals and paralegal specialists.
Article Type: Column
Subject: Military personnel (Laws, regulations and rules)
Author: Chouinard, Christopher
Pub Date: 01/01/2012
Publication: Name: U.S. Army Medical Department Journal Publisher: U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School ISSN: 1524-0436
Issue: Date: Jan-March, 2012
Topic: Event Code: 930 Government regulation; 940 Government regulation (cont); 980 Legal issues & crime Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Government regulation
Product: Product Code: 9104111 Active Military Personnel NAICS Code: 92811 National Security
Organization: Government Agency: United States. Army
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 284015870
Full Text: INTRODUCTION

As the US Army Medical Command's Chief Paralegal Noncommissioned Officer, I have had the opportunity to talk and get to know a phenomenal group of Soldiers and civilian personnel who make up this command's paralegal workforce. These paralegal specialists (military occupational specialty 27D) and civilian paralegals are well educated, professional, and hard-working. Unfortunately, they are unknown to many within MEDCOM. Some of them are heroes in disguise. Some of them are heroes waiting to be challenged. In any event, these paralegals specialists and paralegals are a resource which should not be ignored and which I encourage all leaders and personnel within this command to utilize to their fullest potential.

TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE

Military paralegal specialists provide valuable services, and are an integral part of the Army's legal system. They provide legal and administrative support in such diverse areas as criminal law, ethics, administrative law, contract law, fiscal law, and, yes, health law. They are highly skilled and highly trained. Paralegal specialists require 10 weeks of advanced individual training and on-the-job instruction in such matters as legal terminology, research techniques, preparing legal documents, interviewing witnesses, and transcription. By the time paralegal specialists are assigned to a medical center or a medical region, they have had years of experience and can provide in-depth legal support to MEDCOM commanders, staff, and personnel.

Paralegals, like paralegal specialists, also provide invaluable legal services in many of the same areas described earlier. However, the status of the individual specialist is based on the state in which he or she was trained. Some may have a paralegal certificate which is usually the result of a program that targets those who already possess a college degree or prior legal experience. The certificate program focuses heavily on litigation, research, writing, ethics, and legal documentation. Others may have an associate degree in applied science in paralegal studies which requires courses in civil litigation, legal research, legal analysis and writing, and ethics. These courses are supplemented by requirements determined by the student's specialization. Some of these programs require an externship in order to provide hands-on job experience in the legal field. Finally, there is the bachelor's degree in paralegal studies. This degree offers the most complete education for those with no prior experience in the legal industry. The primary advantage of a bachelor's degree program over the associate's and certificate programs is the focus on the actual execution of the skills rather than a simple understanding of the ideas and principles.

IMPORTANCE OF ROLE

Paralegal specialists and paralegals have been a mainstay in the Army Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps since World War II. Regardless of the type of command, they have been a multiplier that correlates to mission success. They both provide direct support to the military and civilian attorneys within the command. They very often are the "boots on the ground" representative of the Judge Advocate General and the Corps Regimental Command Sergeant Major in dealings with commanders and staff. They have the ability to function in any given environment. They have the ability to do everything that an attorney can, with the exception of practicing law. They can research any given subject. They can draft legal documentation on any given topic. The can answer complex questions.

THE FUTURE

Within the MEDCOM, over 50 civilian and military paralegals work in unison to provide MEDCOM with unparalleled support. As diverse as the practice of medicine and its many disciplines, paralegal specialists and paralegals can adapt to any scenario. As the Army Medical Command grows, the need for operational and sustained legal support will increase. The increased demand for comprehensive health law support will create a greater demand for paralegal specialist and paralegal support. It is without question that there will be a paralegal specialist or paralegal involved in each and every decision as MEDCOM becomes an even greater combat asset.

If the noncommissioned officer is the backbone of the US Army, the paralegal specialist and paralegal are the nerve that provides an electric spark which makes the JAG Corps work. MEDCOM has been graced with many professional and hardworking Paralegals that are committed to mission success. Their level of expertise and knowledge is unsurpassed and makes me proud to be part of this tremendous organization. While it is always easy to "call the lawyer," it is even easier to just call your paralegal. They are the consummate professionals and the foundation upon which the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps is built.

MSG Christopher Chouinard, USA
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