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Shipping out from the College of Law: Iowa Law student set for career in Navy JAG

Megan Horst has always loved traveling the world, but the Vinton, Iowa, native never imagined her passion for exploring would land her in law school—or the U.S. Navy, no less.

Horst, a second-year student in the University of Iowa College of Law, decided to attend law school because she loves learning and was interested in the challenges that studying law would present her with.

Megan Horst
But it wasn’t until she began taking courses at Iowa Law—where she sat in on a presentation about opportunities in the Navy JAG Corps—that she realized she could travel the world by way of her J.D. She inquired about internship opportunities and was encouraged to apply.

The U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps provides commanders, sailors, and Navy families with targeted legal solutions wherever and whenever required to enable effective naval and joint operations.

“I applied because I really wanted to spend more time abroad,” Horst says. “I studied in Portugal in undergrad, and I wanted to go back to Europe because I’ve lived in Iowa my whole life. This was a job that would force me to move and experience new cultures.”

Horst landed an internship with the U.S. Navy JAG Corps at the Sigonella Naval Air Station in Italy last summer, where she advised officers and various commands on matters of naval law, as well as personal legal issues, such as drafting wills. Much of her time was spent on legal research related to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a legal system entirely new to her.

“One day we might be discussing what to do about an issue with stray dogs on the base, and the next we would discuss our aircraft flight schedule with the Italian Air Force,” Horst says. “Because you’re the only legal counsel on site, you get to know everything about how the military base functions. I learned a lot about the operational side of the Navy and grew to love military culture just as much as Italian culture.”

Horst returned to Iowa Law to complete her legal education last fall, and she’s already secured a job with the Navy JAG Corps after graduation in May 2017. And she says she has her instructors and peers to thank for that.

“What’s impacted me most is the fact that I’ve built relationships with certain faculty who are really helping me figure out what I want to do,” Horst says. “When I was evaluating internship opportunities, I had people to discuss the pros and cons with who were always asking me about my next step and my next goal and providing mentorship. The faculty here really help foster that.”

Horst says Iowa Law’s faculty also are proactive, providing learning experiences outside of the classroom, and she’s benefitted from being invited to sit in on criminal-defense trials and help faculty, like Todd Pettys, professor of law at the UI, with research.

But most of all, Horst says her time at Iowa Law has helped her learn what it means to be a lawyer—to build trust, to verify facts, and to accept criticism so she can continue to improve.

“The work we do here matters,” Horst says of her legal education. “As a lawyer, you have to learn to be confident and competent because you’re charged with handling someone else’s legal issues. At first it can seem pretty overwhelming, but it’s important to check and verify when you don’t know the answer to something. You have to gain your client’s trust to do a good job.”

Horst plans to take the bar exam before she begins her naval-officer training in Rhode Island. Once her training is complete, she’ll be on active duty, where she’ll gain experience in command services, legal assistance, defense counsel, and prosecution in six-month rotations.

And those back at Iowa Law will be encouraging her from afar.

“It’s such an honor to be part of Megan’s life during her time here at the College of Law,” says Pettys, for whom Horst works as a research assistant. “She is smart, poised, humble, and well-grounded. From the very first conversation I ever had with her, I’ve been struck by the great degree to which she has a knack for living a full, meaningful life. She’s a tremendous credit to this university, just as she will be to the Navy JAG.”

Horst says she’s ready for her next great adventure.

“My time at Iowa Law has taught me that I can truly do whatever I want with a law degree,” Horst says. “I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve taken advantage of the opportunities law school has to offer, and I’m ready for the next challenge.”

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Contact: Hayley Bruce, Office of Strategic Communication, 319-384-0072

Megan Horst