Determination: JAG paralegal eyes her law degree while on deployment
Victoria McCormick initially set her sights on an undergrad degree in aviation with the aim of becoming a U.S. Navy pilot, then a career as a commercial airline pilot.
But the economics of an expensive aviation degree prompted McCormick to pursue a different route to career fulfillment.
After receiving multiple scholarships to Eastern Michigan University, and with a passion for the military, the Massachusetts native picked EMU’s Army ROTC program and a degree in criminal justice. With her background in sports, the ROTC program’s focus on community involvement, physical activity, camaraderie, and leadership was a perfect fit.
Then fate stepped in yet again. In the final week of her junior year, McCormick’s father was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Spending her father’s last days with him, she sacrificed the possibility of commissioning as an Army 2nd Lieutenant.
She did, however, obtain her military science minor, and with her criminal justice studies having tied in with military science courses about terrorism and global injustice, she launched a new goal—law school.
“After spending four years intensely studying injustices around the globe, I knew I couldn’t stop my education there. I didn’t wish to be a criminologist and study crime or teach criminology, I wanted to curtail it,” she says.
“I made the choice to spend my time strategically doing whatever was in my power to fight it, pioneering justice and guarding freedom. Since law governs our society, and international laws govern the global environment, law school became my primary goal.”
After EMU graduation and while preparing for the LSAT, McCormick enlisted, taking an open paralegal slot with the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
“I sought to be a part of something bigger than myself, improve my skills, and enhance my knowledge as a professional and soldier,” she says.
Accepted at several law schools, McCormick chose to study international and military operations law at WMU-Cooley Law School, with the goal of a 2021 graduation, studying even while on deployment overseas.
“WMU Cooley was the only school that was viable for me as a working full time student and a serving member of the armed forces,” she says. “Since then, going to Cooley Law School has given me a myriad of career opportunities I otherwise would not have had. Not only is it located next to the state Capitol and geographically integrated with the government of Michigan, there are a considerable amount of prestigious law firms in the area.”
One of those was the Loomis Law Firm in Lansing, where a 1L file clerk position with attorney Jack C. Davis exposed McCormick to the processes of litigation, legal research, business law, and overall operations of a sizable firm.
Employed this past summer as a paralegal for Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon, director of the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, McCormick learned about DNA/biological evidence testing, and false forensics. She dealt with criminal law, investigating, reviewing, and evaluating cases and worked with the legal team in exonerating Michigan inmates who were falsely imprisoned.
“I couldn’t have worked with a more passionate legal team, and I plan to be a part of the project in the future,” she says.
McCormick also re-chartered the law school’s Military Law Student Association, and served as MLSA vice president. The organization seeks to volunteer and give back to local veteran-related organizations and provides an environment where students, faculty, and the community can support past and present military members in the Lansing area and WMU-Cooley Law School.
“I’m beyond both proud and honored to be able to impact the local veteran community and serve as a liaison with other veteran and current service member based organizations, including Team RWB, STIGGY’s Dogs, Michigan National Guard recruiting, MSU Army ROTC, Volunteers of America, Marine Corps JAG, and Army JAG,” McCormick says.
Currently serving as a JAG Paralegal Specialist for the 177th Military Police Brigade Headquarters in the Michigan Army National Guard, McCormick recently deployed on classified missions.
On her return stateside, she will resume her classes at Cooley. In the meantime, she plans on working toward two directed studies for credit as well as a Law Review article on her directed study topic.
When she graduates from Cooley in 2021 and takes the bar exam, McCormick plans to apply for a U.S. Army active duty JAG Attorney slot and focus on the area of international/operations law and intelligence law.
“I would love to be stationed in Italy,” she says. “As an alternate plan, I’d like to commission as a JAG attorney in the Michigan Army National Guard, and explore options as a civilian attorney.”
In her free time, McCormick, who hails originally from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., enjoys snowboarding, deer hunting, fishing, riding her motorcycle, traveling, playing the piano, and target shooting firearms; and has two rescue pit bulls that live with her mother in Northville.