Legal Officers deliver legal services in the fields of operational law, international law, training, military personnel law, and military justice.
The primary responsibilities of a Legal Officer include:
- Providing advice on international and domestic law to the commander of a deployed force
- Providing general legal advice and services to the commanding officer of a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Base
- Providing advice on operational legal issues at National Defence Headquarters
- Representing clients at Court Martial and appearing before the Court Martial Appeal Court
- Representing the interests of the CAF and the Department of National Defence (DND) as:
- A member of a Canadian delegation negotiating international treaties
- A member of the military liaison staff at an allied headquarters
- Delivering training on military law and military justice
Legal Officers are members of the Legal Branch of the CAF. This branch is commanded by the Judge Advocate General (JAG) that acts as legal adviser to the Governor General, the Minister of National Defence, the DND and the CAF in matters relating to military law and administers military justice in the CAF.
The Office of the JAG provides the military justice system with military judges, prosecution and defence counsel. A Legal Officer may also work at the Office of the DND/CAF Legal Adviser, working in such areas as legislative drafting, pensions, claims and administrative law. A Legal Officer could also be appointed to the military bench, to serve in the independent Office of the Chief Military Judge.
Pay and career development
The starting salary for a fully trained Legal Officer is $77,000 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Regular promotions through the junior officer ranks take place based on the completion of required training and on the length of service as an officer.
During the first appointment, a Legal Officer will be expected to complete Legal Officer Basic Training and Legal Officer Intermediate Training. Legal Officers who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.
Related civilian occupations
Basic military officer qualification
After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 15 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.
Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.
During the first posting, Legal Officers are expected to complete all Legal Officer basic occupational training which will allow you to work in the varied areas of employment within the Office of the JAG.
Legal Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including graduate degrees.
All Legal Officers must be admitted to the Bar of a Canadian province or territory, and be a member in good standing of a provincial or territorial law society.
If you have graduated within the last two years, you must have practice experience within the last two years. This experience may include clinic work or articling experience under the supervision of a licensed lawyer in Canadian Criminal Law, International Law, Administrative Law, Labour and Employment Law or Human Rights Law.
If it has been more than two years since you graduated from Law School, you must have practised law on a full-time basis in Canada since graduation. If you have not worked as a lawyer since law school and you graduated more than two years ago, you may have your legal experience evaluated by the Office of the JAG to determine suitability. This will be done after you have applied to the CAF.
Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.
This occupation is available part-time within the following environments: Navy, Army, Air Force
Serve with the Reserve Force
This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time with a military unit in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.
Legal Officers may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army or the Royal Canadian Air Force as members of the Legal branch of the CAF. They are employed to deliver legal services in the fields of operational law, international law, military personnel law, military administrative law and military justice. Those employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis usually serve at military bases, wings, home ports and units at locations within Canada.
Reserve Force training
Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with the Office of the JAG to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic officer training, the home unit will arrange for specialized skills training. Applicants with a university degree in law (LL.L, LL.B. or J.D.) may be placed directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training.
Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.
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