Military, Law Combine for a One-of-a-Kind Internship Experience
Students at the Saint Louis University School of Law often spend their summers spread across the country and even across the globe to continue learning the practice of law and enrich their legal education and skills. Many students spend time in law firms being mentored by practicing attorneys or take classes abroad learning about international law, and sometimes students explore specialized areas of the law through unique summer experiences.
During the summer of 2011, second-year law student Chris Butler completed a summer internship with the Marine Corps in Yuma, Ariz., working with the Joint Law Center (JLC) as assistant trial counsel. The internship program is available to current officers like Butler and introduces them to the military system of justice and the unique legal work of the Marine Corps.
"Throughout the summer, I provided the trial counsel with research and analysis on a variety of different issues including concurrent jurisdiction between military and civilian law, insurance claims for deceased service members and sentencing guidelines for the violation of the National Firearms Act," Butler said.
In addition to his research, Butler was also the recorder for three separate Administrative Separation (ADSEP) Boards. The ADSEP Boards are cost-effective, efficient alternatives to court-martials in situations where an enlisted Marine has committed misconduct warranting separation.
"The recorder is basically the prosecutor for the government, but doesn't have to be a lawyer certified in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice," explained Butler. "As with a trial, there is a voire-dire opening statements, the presentation of evidence, calling of witnesses, direct and cross-examinations, and the rebuttal. However unlike a court-martial, the Military Rules of Evidence do not apply."
Butler's summer experience with the JLC built on his career foundation in the Marine Corps. Butler attended Officer Candidate School in 2010 after graduating from college and received his officer's commission Aug. 14, 2010 with an official military occupational specialty of a student judge advocate. He followed in the footsteps of his mother, grandfather, and uncles, by attending SLU LAW and is now concentrating his studies in criminal litigation with the goal of becoming a judge advocate after graduation.
"One of the best experiences about being in the Marine Corps is the people," Butler said. "You get to work with people from all over the country who share the common passion and goal of serving our country."
Butler's summer internship was an especially unique experience among his law school peers. "During the summer, I was able to earn the highest possible qualification on the rifle, ‘Rifle Expert,' and managed to get my green belt, the third highest out of five belts, in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program," Butler said.
The uniqueness of the opportunity is what first attracted Butler to the internship. "The main reason I decided to participate in this internship is because the program was designed for Marine officers who are still in law school, and it gives them a first-hand look at the jobs they'll be expected to do when they hit the fleet," said Butler.
Not only will Butler's experience enhance his career, but he also believes his summer experience will enrich his law school education at SLU.
"I started law school right after graduating from Officer's Candidate School in Quantico, Va.," explained Butler. "I went from training that focused on physical endurance to jumping into the benchmark classes that all 1Ls face. There was no connection between the two, and I had a hard time rationalizing all the time and hard work I was putting into both. This summer has helped bridge that gap for me - I've had the opportunity to work with officers that are doing the jobs I'll one day be called on to do, and I've gotten to see what skills are required to provide high-quality legal assistance to our Marines. I know that one day soon, my legal education will make a difference for them."
After completing law school and passing the bar, Butler plans to attend The Basic School, a six-month officer finishing school required of all Marine Corps officers. After that, he plans to attend the Naval Justice School in Newport, R.I. to receive specialized legal training. Butler describes his summer internship as another step in helping him reach his goal.
"The Marines are all about self-improvement and it's incredibly motivating to be a part of an organization that never gets complacent. Being a Marine Corps judge advocate entails a lot more than just being an attorney, and I got a good taste of what it takes during my experience in Yuma."