Two soon-to-be graduates of UT Law are a step closer to becoming judge advocates in the U.S. Marine Corps.
William Bateman, of Memphis, and Marc Napolitana, of Westford, Massachusetts, will graduate from the College of Law on Thursday. They are the only students in this year’s graduating class to be part of the judge advocate program.
Two others, Harris Laughrey and Zach Poteet, are set to graduate in May 2016.
Marine judge advocates can serve as criminal prosecutors or defense counsel or help fellow Marines with their civil legal needs, including estate planning and family law. They also work in operational and international law, educating Marines about international treaties and agreements that are part of the Law of Armed Conflict. In wartime, judge advocates deploy with units and provide legal services to commanders, deployed Marines and other service members. They also advise commanders on rules of engagement, the Law of War and detention operations.
“My experience with UT Law has been three of the best academic years of my life,” said Bateman. “I’ve enjoyed the congeniality among my peers, and going through something so difficult with them, and getting to know my professors and Dean Doug Blaze, has been fantastic. And it’s flown by.”
Napolitana agreed: “I am leaving here having met some of the most considerate, passionate and hard-working people in my life. I am so fortunate to have spent three years here, and I can say without a doubt that attending UT Law has been one of the best decisions of my life.”
With their law degrees in hand, the men must complete six months at the Basic School in Quantico, Virginia.
“It’s infantry training, learning to lead Marines into battle,” Bateman said. “Marines pride themselves in saying ‘every Marine is a rifleman.’”
After that, Bateman and Napolitana will finish their training with 10 weeks at Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island.
Then, they’ll get to work—or, as Marines say, “hit the fleet” as judge advocates.
The men don’t know where they’ll be stationed, although it will most likely be on a base on the East or West Coast, or in Hawaii or Japan.
If America ends up involved in a war, they could be deployed to the war zone. Although judge advocates are typically “inside the wire” of the base where they advise the military leadership, there’s always a chance they could be sent into a combat area.
While they are nearing the completion of their training, getting this far has been a rigorous exercise; becoming a Marine judge advocate is a three-step process that pushes candidates to their physical and intellectual limits.
First, the men had to be accepted to the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School—a grueling regimen of leadership training, physical fitness tests and classroom work that Bateman called “the most intense, difficult 10 weeks of my life.”
Bateman chose to do OCS during the summer between his first and second years of law school. Napolitana split his OCS into two six-week stretches, the first between his sophomore and junior years at Boston College, and the second in the summer of 2012, right after graduating from Boston College and before starting law school.
“It is really your first basic training. It is officer boot camp,” Bateman said. “But it’s more like cross-country camp with yelling and screaming.
“It’s not only physically and academically challenging, but also mentally, he added. “It was, hands down, harder than law school,” he said.
Napolitana said the toughest part of judge advocate training has been “learning how to operate efficiently under many different types of pressure. Whether it’s physical, mental, the heat, the lack of sleep, your own ignorance, the noise, the law or whatever.
“Being able to make a decision quickly, then throw some confidence behind that decision while adapting accordingly, is a very difficult skill to learn and perform,” he said.
Bateman clerked with the local district attorney’s office during law school, so he’d like to work in criminal law but could be asked to perform any type of legal service.
Though one day he may settle into a law firm, being a Marine judge advocate appeals to his adventurous side.
“You get to travel the world, serve your country, learn to be a leader—and you get to practice law. It made all of the sense in the world to go the judge advocate route,” he said.
During his time at the College of Law, Napolitana has served as the chairman of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. He also served as a law clerk at both a civil and criminal defense law firm.
He says he’s ready to do whatever is needed.
“While in the Marines, my goal is simply to be the best Marine, lawyer and person I can be,” he said.