Conversations with Practitioners is our ongoing series in which we ask current practitioners about their careers.
1. What do you currently do?
I am an active duty judge advocate and am currently the Director of the Professional Communications Program at the The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School. As part of that job, I am a professor of legal writing and public speaking. Further, I oversee the Oral History Program and the publication of the Army JAG Corps’ (JAGC) flagship publications, the Military Law Review and The Army Lawyer.
2. What does your job entail?
The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School is an ABA accredited L.LM. granting institution. Each year we have about 115 students attend the L.LM. program and one of their requirements is a scholarly paper. My main responsibility is teaching them scholarly, legal writing and overseeing this requirement of their L.LM. I also supervise three editors who select and edit the academic articles published in The Judge Advocate General’s Corps’ publications.
3. What drew you to doing this kind of work?
Since 9/11, I have always known I wanted to be in public service, but I wasn’t exactly sure where. After my second year of law school, I interned for the JAGC, and I knew that was where I wanted to go after law school. The combination of the people and mission make this the best fit for me. This is also the perfect job to combine a variety of skills and interests, and the environment is always changing, which definitely keeps life interesting.
4. What did you do in law school or immediately after law school that has helped you develop your career?
During undergrad and law school, I sought various employment opportunities to figure out where I wanted to be. I interned for the JAGC, Department of Justice, a Congressional Senator, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I also externed at state and local government offices. I spent time on a variety of activities throughout school so that I was well-rounded and would fit into any of the jobs I selected, or that selected me.
5. Do you have any advice for current law students who are interested in working in your industry (or law students in general)?
Do what you enjoy and take this time to explore who you want to be. Throughout my life, I have enjoyed running and being active, and I didn’t stop that in law school. In the end, I think that contributed to my selection to the JAGC. Examine what you like to do, then find a job that allows you to do that. For example, if you like traveling, make sure your job allows you to travel. If one of your goals is to contribute to society in a positive way, military service fulfills that; I cannot tell you how meaningful it is for me to put on my uniform and know that I am serving the people of our Nation (in my small way). I knew that government service, specifically the JAGC, was what I wanted, so when I joined, I didn’t have any doubts or regrets.
Major Laura O’Donnell, JA, Director of the Professional Communications Program and Associate Professor, Administrative and Civil Law Department. B.S., Manchester University, 2002; J.D., Valparaiso University School of Law, 2005; M.B.A., Indiana University, 2012; LL.M., 62d Judge Advocate Graduate Course, 2014. Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course, 2006; Editor, Military Law Review, The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2013-2014; Operational Law Attorney, Space and Missile Defense Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, 2012-2013; Trial Defense Service, Fort Carson, Colorado, 2009-2012; Trial Counsel/Operational Law Attorney, 3d Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, 2007-2009; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii (Legal Assistance Attorney, 2007; Operational Law Attorney, 2006-2007). Member of the Bars of Illinois, the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and the United States Supreme Court.