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316th WG Legal Office hosts intern training litigation competition

By Airman 1st Class Spencer Slocum 316th Wing Public Affairs

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The 316th Wing Legal Office here hosted a Judge Advocate General's Corps-wide, two-round litigation competition via video teleconferencing for interns, in an effort to enhance their training over a span of four days.

In late July, interns joined the competition to be a part of this unique training opportunity as a way to strengthen gaps in their education and continue being proactive in finding new ways to train while practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Capt. Pavan S. Krishnamurthy, 316th Wing Legal Office assistant staff judge advocate, worked with Pentagon JAG Corps recruiting to recruit a total of 26 intern participants for this virtual training.

“We wanted to implement a new form of experiential training for our interns,” said Krishnamurthy. “In our career field, it is one of the richest and most realistic forms of training we can provide.”

For the first round of this training, which took place on July 28, 2020, interns were divided into five groups. They were given a fact pattern, a hypothetical set of facts in evidence and literature on constructing their argument.

“You can learn all about law from text books, you can read all the cases, but practicing our advocacy helps us transfer into real world scenarios and develop our own style of practice going into our careers,” said Christina Millard, 316th Wing Judge Advocates Office student trainee law clerk and finalist in the competition. “Presenting opening statements in this setting was a great way for me to get feedback of my trial advocacy abilities directly.”

Each group was assigned a senior attorney with significant trial experience. The attorney would listen to every intern and provide individualized feedback about their presentation. They then chose one intern from their group to move on to the final round.

For the final round, which took place July 31, participants presented defense opening statements rather than a prosecution. 

Everyone in the JAG Corps starts as a prosecutor, and only after having years of trial experience are personnel allowed to work in defense.

“I’d never done anything criminal defense whatsoever,” said Christopher R. Schroeder, 45th Space Wing student trainee law clerk. “My first reaction was ‘Oh no, how do you do that?’ It forced me to learn an entirely new skill set, which I’m thankful for.”

After all openings were presented in the second round and individualized feedback was given, Schroeder was crowned the winner of the competition.

“Even though I won, the value wasn’t winning,” said Schroeder. “The value was the training and I’m definitely going to use what I learned during the competition in real world practice.”

Following the competition, Col. Kevin Catron, 316th Wing Legal Office Staff Judge Advocate, the chief attorney for the installation, made sure to reach out to each intern and their supervisors as well as the judges, thanking them for their participation.

“Participating in this virtual competition was a great thing,” said Millard. “I was worried about what I was going to miss out on with my learning due to COVID-19, but thanks to the legal atmosphere that has developed I feel like I haven’t missed much.”

The 316th Wing Legal Office plans to host more competitions like this in the future, in an effort to further training.

If you are a student and want to find out more about the USAF JAG Corps, please visit the following website:  https://www.airforce.com/careers/specialty-careers/jag/entry-programs/student