Campbell Law Spotlight: Jacob Byrd ’23

Photo of Jacob Byrd '23

Jacob Byrd ’23 never imagined that five months after graduating from Campbell Law School, he would be learning land navigation and firing machine guns. However, his passion for service led him to this path as a Judge Advocate in the United States Marine Corps.

Byrd’s academic journey began at Appalachian State University, where he pursued a major in political science through the school’s pre-law program. This foundational education laid the groundwork for his legal career, offering courses in constitutional law and first amendment law. Moreover, the connections he forged with peers who attended law schools across the country became invaluable resources throughout his legal education.

During his time at Campbell Law, Byrd embraced every opportunity for growth and involvement. He participated in the Kilpatrick Townsend 1L mock trial competition and spent his 2L year on both the mock trial and moot court teams. He spent the summer after his 1L year interning at the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina for Judge David Warren. Byrd then spent the fall of his 3L year externing for the United States Attorneys’ Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina in the Appellate Division. Throughout his entire 3L year he also served as an Advanced Legal Writing teaching assistant.

While exploring career options during his second year, Byrd went through numerous On-Campus Interviews (OCIs) with firms but felt like none of them were the right fit. Then he attended an OCI to become a Judge Advocate in the Marine Corps, and despite not having had previous intentions of serving in the military, this opportunity resonated deeply with him. Inspired by a family friend’s experience with the diverse and impactful nature of the role, Byrd was drawn to the prospect of serving his country as Judge Advocate. Among other things, Judge Advocates are military officers that advise commanders on legal issues such as rules of engagement and litigate criminal cases under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

What set the Marine Corps apart from the other services for Byrd was its unrestricted line officer designation, offering Judge Advocates the opportunity to fill a variety of roles beyond traditional legal practice. This flexibility appealed to Byrd’s desire for a career that would constantly push him beyond his comfort zone. Additionally, Judge Advocates have the opportunity to lead litigation almost immediately when they begin their first tour. Byrd said he was drawn to this on-the-job training and the ability to serve early in his career.

The path to becoming a Judge Advocate in the Marine Corps is rigorous, Byrd said. The first step is to undergo a thorough application process and then face a board of Marine Corps officers. This board evaluates an applicant’s physical fitness, academics and leadership potential. The next step tests these attributes in Candidate School where the goal is to train, screen and evaluate candidates for their ability to serve as company grade officers. This 10-week school has a failure rate that ranges from 20 to 40 percent. Byrd successfully completed Officer Candidates School and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant during the summer between his 2L and 3L year.

In the summer of 2023, Byrd graduated from Campbell Law and after successfully completing the bar exam, he checked into The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. Byrd will remain at The Basic School until May 2024. This school is geared towards learning to be a provisional rifle platoon commander and is required of every officer serving in the Marine Corps. Byrd is learning and mastering basic infantry skills to live up to a Marine Corps motto that every Marine is a rifleman and every Marine Officer is trained to lead as a provisional rifle platoon commander.

Following The Basic School, Byrd will undergo further training at Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island, where he will delve into a range of legal subjects crucial to his role as a Judge Advocate. At the end of Naval Justice School, Byrd will begin his first tour.

Reflecting on his time at Campbell Law, Byrd cherishes the memories of lifelong friendships, meeting his now-wife as his 2L mock trial partner and the intellectually stimulating environment that shaped his legal education. His biggest piece of advice to those who want to pursue a similar career is to reach out to alumni because Campbell Law has a deep alumni network of Judge Advocates across the Armed Services. Byrd also says that Campbell Law’s many veterans’ commitment to service and sacrifice inspired him to pursue a career in the Armed Forces.

Contributors

Emily Sullivan '24

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