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Lyness, Lewis Selected for JAG Internships

February 14, 2011

You might think the U.S. Department of Defense primarily knows Vermont Law School as one of only two law schools in the nation that bar military recruiters from campus because of the "don't ask, don't tell" law. But Pentagon officials also know VLS as the source of highly qualified students for summer internships and graduates for post-law school jobs in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, the judicial branch of the U.S. armed forces.

Each year, VLS typically has one to three students enter the JAG Corps' summer internship program and another one to two VLS graduates enlist as JAG officers. That's about 1 percent of each graduating class, which is the national average for all U.S. law schools. The JAG Corps also periodically sends officers to take classes at VLS. Those figures haven't been affected by VLS's stance on the "don't ask, don't tell" law, which prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. military. The law's repeal is slated to go into effect later this year.

The JAG Corps in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are involved in a broad range of cases in military justice, contract law, international law and other branches of the law.

"The JAG corps provides very high-quality training, together with a lot of responsibility in a hurry, for VLS students and graduates," said Professor Steve Dycus, an internationally recognized authority on national security law. "Our students are also attracted by this unique opportunity to use their legal skills to serve the nation. There is no higher professional calling."

Mike Lyness '12 and Erica Lewis '12, who both support VLS's position on "don't ask, don't tell" were among 50 legal internship candidates accepted for the Army JAG Corps this summer out of 1,600 applicants. Lyness, 25, who grew up on a farm in New Jersey, graduated from Lafayette College. He enrolled at VLS because of an interest in environmental law enforcement, but he's since become interested in a JAG career. He decided to apply for a JAG internship after taking Dycus' national security law class and meeting Jake Rouchka '10 and Cole Flannery ‘11, who had been accepted into the Army JAG Corps.

Lyness, who likely will be stationed in Washington state this summer, said he's honored to have been selected for the JAG internship - and that his and Lewis' selection is another sign that the Defense Department continues to recognize the quality of VLS students and alumni. "I give VLS credit for taking such a firm stance on ‘don't ask, don't tell' even though it's come at a cost," he said.

Lewis, 27, graduated from the University of Southern Florida and chose VLS because of the U.S.-China Partnership in Environmental Law. After her JAG internship this summer, she'll be an intern for the Beijing Arbitration Commission in the fall. The Florida resident would like to practice international and operational law and also is interested in dispute resolution. She's considering a career in international diplomacy and human rights but said the JAG Corps is a highly respected institution.

"I feel the military will be able to make good use of my background in Spanish, Mandarin and Italian," said Lewis, who likely will be based in South Korea this summer. "I like the idea of working for the military because it is necessary to the functioning of our democratic system and essential to ensure national security as well as promote our interests abroad. I hope to gain valuable insight into military life that enables me to make a well-informed decision if I decide to apply to be a career officer."

Like Lyness, Lewis supports VLS's stance on the "don't ask, don't tell" law. "I am proud of VLS for holding firm in its non-discrimination policy. DADT is a law that can stand only as long as the American people allow it to stand."

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