Army’s Funded Legal Education Program

Law school is a serious investment. The average annual cost of attending a private law school in the United States is over $43,000, according to a 2017 US News and World Report survey. Public law schools average $26,000 for in-state residents and almost $40,000 for out-of-state students. 

Even more challenging, newly minted lawyers are often burdened with six-figure student loan debt, and difficulty finding good paying jobs right away — if at all.

For service members, however, there’s another option. Every year, the Army Office of the Judge Advocate General in Washington, D.C., accepts applications for the Army’s Funded Legal Education Program. Under this program, the Army sends accepted candidates to law school at government expense. Up until last year, applicants had to be active duty commissioned officers, but this year, Congress expanded the eligibility to include E-5s through E-7s with 4-8 years of service.    

Those selected for the FLEP program remain on active duty with full pay and benefits while attending law school and have a service obligation of six years following completion of the program.

Capt. Isaac Brown, a general crimes trial counsel for the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, was an undergrad student in ROTC when he started looking into higher education programs.

“I was having a conversation with one of my professors, and he told me about the Funded Legal Education Program,” he said. “It was an option to pursue when I got to the point in my career when I’d be eligible.”

He went on to become a field artillery officer and was a few years into his military career when he was accepted into the FLEP program and started his studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Law school is a beast in and of itself,” he said. “It’s unlike a lot of other educational experiences. The first year you are learning a new way to read cases, to think through problems. It’s challenging in that you have to start thinking differently.”

Brown said the FLEP program allows students to go to the school of their choice, as long as it’s a state-supported school where they qualify for in-state tuition, or where military members are granted in-state tuition. 

“It’s education that you wouldn’t otherwise receive, paid for by the government if you are qualified,” he said. “It also lands you a pretty secure job in the JAG core upon graduation, which is something that the vast majority of law school graduates don’t have.”

Only 25 applicants are selected for FLEP each year. However, Brown said there’s no one factor for selection, since it’s a holistic process.

“The FLEP selection board looks for all kinds of things – your officer evaluation reports, your undergraduate grades,” Brown said.

To prepare, he said, make sure you take the Law School Admissions Test — not just to help you get into a good law school, but to show the FLEP board that you are taking the process seriously. He also suggested reaching out to local judge advocates for help.

Fellow UCLA FLEP graduate Maj. Kenton Spiegler agreed.

“Go find one of us,” Speigler said. “Go find a lawyer in your unit and talk to us. Get to know what we do and allow us to get to know you. When it came time for the staff judge advocate to interview me, which is a huge part of [the application process], I was somebody that was very familiar to him, and I think that made a big impact.”

Spiegler is currently chief of military justice for the 21st TSC, covering military justice for most of Europe, minus Italy, Bavaria, and Poland. He wasn’t always sure he wanted to be a lawyer, but from a young age, he knew he wanted to be in the military.

“There are pictures of me when I was in preschool and kindergarten running around in fatigues,” he said. “I never really grew out of that. I don’t come from a military background, but early on I decided I wanted to be an army officer.”

He graduated from West Point and received his commission in 2003. In his fourth year as a field artillery officer, he saw first-hand the effect a good military lawyer could have when one of his Soldiers had to meet with one during a deployment to Afghanistan.

“He came out of the lawyer’s office in Bagram beaming,” Spiegler said. “And I thought, ‘That guy made a difference.’”

Shortly after, he applied for and was accepted to the FLEP program.

“Without exception, every single captain who was a judge advocate that I spoke to was phenomenally satisfied with their job,” Spiegler said. “If you’re somebody that was already in the military and wanted to serve, certainly you’re somebody that was likely looking for a little more meaning in your life and making sure you are making a difference.”

He said taking this path did mean giving up other opportunities.

“My old classmates are battalion commanders now,” he said. “I gave up those leadership opportunities. [But] for anyone that’s interested in continuing to serve and challenging themselves academically and intellectually, and then to be able to understand the higher levels of the army and provide input in a lot of critical decisions that key leaders make, being a lawyer in the army is an exceptional opportunity.”

FLEP is open to E-5s through E-7s with 4-8 years of service and commissioned officers in the rank of second lieutenant through captain. Officers must have at least two, but not more than six, years of total active federal service when legal training begins.

The application deadline is normally in the fall, and application procedures are detailed each year through a MILPER message. Interested service members should review Chapter 10 of Army Regulation 27-1 to determine eligibility. FLEP information can be accessed via the local Staff Judge Advocate or through the Army Judge Advocate Recruiting Office web site at

The 21st Theater Sustainment Command Office of the Staff Judge Advocate is located in Building 3004 on Panzer Kaserne in Kaiserslautern. You can reach the office at DSN 523-0489 or civilian 0611-143-523-0489.