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Posted May 14, 2009

Law School Interrupted: Seven Years and Two Tours in Iraq Later, Jones Graduates

Jones

Scott Jones knows there’s a lot more to life than reading textbooks or studying for exams.

In fact, it took Jones, 34, seven years to complete his law degree. He spent four of those years serving as an officer in the Marine Corps after he was called to duty during his first semester of law school.

Not long after, he found himself in Iraq — an experience that gave Jones perspective when he returned to study law at the University of Virginia.

“One of the things that’s nice about [my time in Iraq] is that all of the stuff law students get upset about, I don’t really care [about],” he said. “If I’m warm and dry, I’m fine. Really, you’re not going to get upset about anything that goes on in law school if you’ve been shot at. I think, ‘I got to shower today. This is a good day!’”

Jones, who is originally from New Jersey, earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, where he studied economics and psychology. He then began working as a paramedic while he prepared to apply for medical school.

“Working as a paramedic made me realize medicine is not something I want to do. I thought that medicine was about isolated problems of otherwise healthy people, like someone breaks a leg, or kids have sniffles, or people get into car accidents. But that’s not how it is,” Jones said. “Ninety percent of medicine is the chronic diseases of the elderly, which I find incredibly depressing and not particularly interesting. I like gunshot wounds a lot more than asthma attacks.”

Jones decided to attend law school after he began talking to Marine Corps representatives about its Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. He signed a contract with the Marines and enrolled at UVA in 2002.

He hadn’t even completed his first semester when the Marine Corps asked him to delay law school and report for action.

“It wasn’t a small decision, but the law school assured me that I would be welcomed back,” Jones said. “It’s not often that the United States government says, ‘We need you right now.’”

Jones completed his first-semester finals in December 2002 and, in January, began officer training. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in March 2003, then attended additional training for his specialty, intelligence.

It wasn’t until he’d served in Iraq twice that Jones returned to law school nearly four years after he first enrolled. The experience, he said, was surreal.

“It’s a weird feeling to go from being in the Iraqi desert and then in [the Law School’s] Scott Commons four months later. I was glad to be back,” he said.

During his three years at the Law School, Jones was president of the Virginia Law Veterans, served on the editorial board of the Virginia Journal of International Law and volunteered pro bono hours representing disabled veterans.

Now, seven years after he began, Jones will graduate May 17. After he passes the bar, he plans to begin work as an assistant district attorney in Charlotte, N.C. — a position he’s ecstatic to fill. He will remain in the Marine Corps Reserves for several more years.

“I really like being in court, and I’m going to be in court every new day. My office will essentially be the courtroom, and it’s stuff I actually care about. Working as a prosecutor, you get all these great stories,” he said.

During his time as a law student, Jones interned and worked with three separate prosecutors’ offices in Virginia, one of which was through the Law School’s prosecution clinic. His favorite case involved an armed robbery.

“The criminal plot was hatched while they were working the afternoon shift at Dairy Queen,” he said. “How you can tell that you should not be part of a conspiracy is when the conspiracy arises while you’re wearing a paper hat.”

• Reported by ashley matthews