Sabrina Rocco ’19 knew she would serve her country one day. During her summer internship with the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, she got her chance. This is her story.
“I have always had a desire to serve my country in some capacity,” says Sabrina Rocco, a 3L student at New England Law | Boston.
With an uncle who served as an Army Officer in the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Desert Storm and a grandfather who spent twenty-eight years in the service before retiring as Chief Warrant Officer in the Army, she was exposed to the idea of joining the military early on.
After earning an Associate of Arts degree from St. Petersburg College, Rocco went on to attend the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications in 2013 and actually spent the following two years in Florida as a newspaper reporter. But her interest in law propelled her northeast, where she took a job as a legal assistant at the Boston law firm of Prince Lobel.
“I always had the idea of making a career switch and going to law school, but I wanted to get some experience in the legal field to make sure I liked it before committing,” Rocco says. “I totally fell in love with the legal world. I love to write, research, and problem-solve, and a lawyer does all of that on a daily basis.”
Rocco ultimately chose New England Law because of its small, close-knit community and proximity to the many legal opportunities in Boston. She took advantage of those opportunities in law school, pursuing several hands-on learning experiences that exposed her to the intricacies of the profession—and what her life might be like as a JAG lawyer for the U.S. military.
Hands-on experience in law school
One of her summer internships unfolded at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island, a small office where she could work in both the civil and criminal divisions, she says. “Most significantly, I conducted legal research for attorneys, drafted deposition questions in a civil fraud case, wrote a motion to continue sentencing in a criminal case, and observed proceedings daily in court.” Rocco also had a prestigious judicial internship with Hon. Donald L. Cabell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. And she serves as president of the school’s Public Interest Law Association and vice president of the Women’s Law Caucus.
But the role that truly solidified her interest in military law was a coveted summer internship with the United States Army JAG Corps, 82nd Airborne Division—the very same division her uncle served in during the Gulf War.
A day in the life of a JAG Corps intern
Even as an intern with the JAG Corps, she was expected to meet military health and fitness standards. Her typical day started at 6:30 a.m. with formation and physical training. This might include a four-mile run, a CrossFit-style workout, or a “ruck march” (a fast-paced march conducted while carrying a weighted pack). Then her work day would really begin.
After her morning physical training, Rocco would get ready for her JAG internship, which began at 9:00 a.m. She rotated between three different offices: Legal Assistance, Military Justice, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s legal office. Between the three offices, she completed various legal tasks, such as drafting prosecution memoranda for attorneys, drafting memoranda for soldiers in the midst of legal proceedings, and conducting numerous research projects. Throughout the summer she also had the opportunity to observe courts-martial, Article 15 hearings (for non-judicial punishments), and polygraph interviews.
“This was the most exciting, rewarding summer of my life,” Rocco says. “I was challenged mentally and physically every single day. I experienced the type of camaraderie that I find to be unparalleled in any other professional setting. Best of all, I was able to work on behalf of the best clients in the world: the United States Army, its fine soldiers, and our country.”
Tips for future JAG interns
Her advice for other law students interested in a military law or JAG internship? Get involved, become well-rounded—and look for leadership opportunities while you’re at it. “Yes, having good grades is important. But it’s also attractive when a candidate participates in extracurriculars such as sports, nonprofit groups in the community, and holds executive board positions on school organizations,” she says. “The military looks for strong leadership skills, so being able to speak to that in an interview is key in getting a military internship.”
As for the future, Rocco is taking the next step in her military law career: she was accepted into the Army JAG Corps in January of 2019 (several months ahead of graduating from law school in May).
“This is my dream job,” she says. “I am so honored to have this opportunity to serve my country as an Army Officer and JAG attorney.”
Learn more about hands-on learning experiences in law school.