“The Very First Step”: Three UNH Franklin Pierce Students Are Accepted into the Navy JAG Corps’ Student Program

Friday, December 17, 2021

James Rego preparing for scuba training

2L James Rego preparing for a dive

As a member of the U.S. Navy since May 2012, James Rego (2L hybrid) was thrilled to find a way to attend law school while fulfilling his active-duty obligations. He was able to combine the best of both worlds when he discovered the Hybrid JD program at UNH Franklin Pierce.

Established in 2019 with a tagline of “stay in your home, stay in your job, earn your JD primarily online,” the Hybrid JD program allows students like Rego to avoid complete career upheaval in pursuit of a law degree. The year-round curriculum includes online classes, both synchronous and asynchronous, and requires only limited trips to campus.

“My decision to attend UNH Franklin Pierce hinged on three things,” explains Rego, who is currently stationed in Panama City Beach, Florida, where he is a Navy diver. “The school’s unique hybrid JD program, its rank and specialty, and its status as a Yellow Ribbon school. Because I was (and am) serving on active duty in the U.S. Navy, the hybrid JD program presented the only possibility of me completing law school without any interruptions to my service. That the school is very veteran friendly sealed the deal.”

Alyssa Scott

2L Alyssa Scott

The next step in Rego’s career is fairly intuitive. He recently learned that he has been selected for the Navy JAG Corps’ Student Program. Rego joins Sarah Younes (3L residential) and Alyssa Scott (2L residential) as a trio of UNH Franklin Pierce students selected for the program, which enables selected law students to commission in the inactive Navy Reserve while attending law school. Upon graduation and bar admission, Rego, Younes, and Scott will be appointed as active-duty Navy judge advocates, with a four-year active commitment plus four years in the Reserve.

Scott is a native of Bedford, N.H., who earned her undergraduate degree in justice studies from Southern New Hampshire University. Growing up as the granddaughter of a judge, Scott knew she might one day attend law school. She also developed an interest in joining the military and realized the JAG Corps would offer her a way to combine both paths.

“Being a Navy judge advocate will prove great experience in a wide variety of law, ranging from criminal defense to legal assistance,” says Scott, who is a Rudman Public Service Fellow at UNH. “I know I want to work in public service or government law. [UNH Franklin Pierce] has helped set me up for this career.”

Sarah Younes

3L Sarah Younes

Scott, Rego, and Younes all credit Associate Dean for Administration and Enrollment Shane Cooper, among others, with facilitating the application process for the JAG Student Program. Younes shares that Cooper walked her through the process, reviewed her application materials, and offered valuable feedback. As a former Navy JAG officer, Cooper was able to share his experiences with Scott, Rego, and Younes, offering a picture of what their own futures might entail.

“He met with me on multiple occasions to discuss and prepare for the application process, the interview, and what a career with Navy JAG looks like,” Rego says. “I look forward to keeping up with him as my career with JAG progresses, and trust that I can turn to him for advice and mentorship every step of the way.”   

Younes grew up in Rhode Island before moving to Virginia, where she earned a B.A. in economics, government, and international politics, with a minor in criminology from George Mason University. Both of her parents served in the Navy, and Younes’s mother was a member of the JAG Corps. She knew she wanted to join the JAG Corps long before arriving at UNH Franklin Pierce, but says the law school has given her “the tools and the means to become a competitive applicant.”

 “It gave me a diverse classroom experience,” Younes adds, “practical experience through my legal residency, and the support of my peers and professors through each application process.”

In addition to Cooper, Younes has received support from Professor Sophie Sparrow, her academic adviser and her instructor in Writing for Practice, which “vastly improved my writing.” It was also Professor Sparrow who introduced Younes to Lieutenant Stephanie Ramirez, JD ’17, who offered advice about what it was like to be a JAG officer and supported Younes throughout the application process.

“What really drew me in was the flexibility and range the program offered,” says Younes, who interned with the Navy JAG Corps during her 2L summer. “Not only would I be able to practice in different locations across the country and the world, but I had a wide range of law that I could practice — all while maintaining a forward projection in my career.”

For Rego, entering the JAG program will be the perfect union of his desires to serve his country and practice law. He already has served for almost a decade, and anticipates at least another 10 years in the military once he joins the JAG Corps. His current status as a Navy diver gives him a slight advantage over other new Student Program recruits, as he is already familiar with Navy standards and customs.

“Acceptance into the JAG program means transitioning from an enlisted Navy diver to a commissioned Navy JAG officer,” says Rego. “The leap between the two is huge. I wanted to get my JD even if it meant using it in only a limited capacity. Navy JAG provides the perfect solution by maximizing my contribution to the Navy and my growth as a lawyer.”

As Rego, Scott, and Younes continue their law school education, they also remain devoted to maintaining the fitness standards required for their military service and preparing for the bar exam. After passing the exam, JAG Student Program participants begin their Navy training in Rhode Island with five weeks at Officer Development School and a 10-week Basic Lawyer Course at Naval Justice School. New judge advocates then report to their permanent duty stations and are committed to four years of active duty.

“My goal has been to become a Navy JAG for the past seven years since I decided to go to law school my freshman year of college,” Younes says. “It still feels a little surreal. This is a huge accomplishment for me and is the start to a whole new life. This is the very first step in what I hope will be a long and successful career as a Navy JAG.”