May 6, 2024

Jones taking law degree to JAG Corps

Grant Jones receives his hood at the College of Law commencement on May 3.  He will be commissioned into the Air Force on May 19 and will serve in the JAG Corps.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing

Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Grant Jones receives his hood at the College of Law commencement on May 3. He will be commissioned into the Air Force on May 19 and will serve in the JAG Corps.

Space law put Nebraska on the map for Grant Jones, and a combination of drive, opportunity and mentorship put him on an interstellar career path.

Following his graduation from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Law May 3, Jones will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force May 19 and join the Judge Advocate General’s Corps — or JAG Corps — to chase his dream of working in national security and space law.

Jones is one of nine individuals across the country who were selected through the Air Force JAG Corps’ One-Year College Program for the 2023-24 academic year. The program assures a position as an Air Force judge advocate upon successful completion of Air Force ROTC training requirements. This required Jones to take junior- and senior-level military science courses concurrently with his law school classes, all while serving as a cadet leader within Air Force ROTC Detachment 465. He will take the bar exam in July and begin JAG school at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama in spring 2025.

The path to the JAG Corps was not immediately clear for Jones, but the law college and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s strong ROTC program helped ensure it.

As an undergraduate at Baylor University, where he graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies, he was on a pre-law track, but he wasn’t entirely sure if law school was for him. He put it on the backburner, and began work as coordinator for Baylor’s Washington, D.C., program, which helps place students in internships and build out other learning opportunities. After four years there, he moved on to a job as a judicial assistant for a federal judge in the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and law school started pulling at him again.

“I have a family member who works for NASA now — I’ve always been inspired by what he does, and I realized I wanted to work in something similar,” said Jones, who counts his hometown as Highland Ranch, Colorado. “I googled space law, mostly wondering if that was even a thing, and Nebraska Law was the first hit.”

Jones started looking into Nebraska’s Space, Cyber and National Security Law Program, and nearly everything he learned was a mark in the “pros” column.

“There was so much research going on that I was really interested in, and my wife also wanted to attend law school to become a federal prosecutor after starting her career as a social worker,” Jones said. “We didn’t have any connection to the state, but Nebraska was affordable, offered scholarships and had good programs that allowed us both to pursue what we wanted to do.”

Grant Jones, kissed his wife, Mikayla, following the ceremony. Mikayla will be a third-year Nebraska Law student in the fall.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Grant Jones, kissed his wife, Mikayla, following the ceremony. Mikayla will be a third-year Nebraska Law student in the fall.

But before he committed to Nebraska, he wanted to form a plan to land a job in space and national security law. That plan included an Air Force ROTC program.

“I’ve always told the students I worked with, if you have a dream job, a really good way to figure out how to get there is to research the folks in those roles and learn the paths they took,” Jones said. “And one of the things that kept coming up in my research was the JAG Corps, so I came here with a number one goal of becoming a JAG officer.”

But the university’s Air Force ROTC also had to commit to him.

“I called the Air Force ROTC detachment here and asked if they’d train me, because a school has to commit to this just as much as I do, and some schools won’t,” Jones said. “Nebraska said, ‘absolutely, yes.’”

As a law student at Nebraska, Jones was a research assistant for Jack Beard, associate professor of law and director of the Space, Cyber and National Security Law program, as he developed the “Woomera Manual on the International Law of Military Space Operations,” which published May 1. He also completed internships with the Air Force JAG Corps at Buckley Space Force Base in Aurora, Colorado; Nebraska Attorney General’s Office; United States Attorney’s Office in Lincoln; and United Launch Alliance, a private company that launches rockets. He was also chosen as a 2022-23 Nebraska Governance and Technology Center student fellow, served as the senior online editor of the Nebraska Law Review, and competed in the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition’s North American regional round in Washington, D.C., where his team finished as semi-finalists.

With graduation in the rearview mirror, Jones will focus on the upcoming bar exam, and then he will have a break to take a breath. After three years of course work, research and internships, he’s not sure how he’ll fill his time.

“I didn’t have a lot of extra time in law school, but I’m going to have a bunch of time to kill in the fall, so I’m hoping to get in some Husker games if I can,” he said.

Jones’ wife of seven years, Mikayla, will finish her law degree in spring 2025. They staggered their start dates so that Grant would have a base assignment when Mikayla was ready to begin her career following graduation.

“Our goal is for me to be stationed, and for her to find employment wherever that is,” he said. “I’d like to stay active duty for a long time, because I learned in my internship that the work is varied day to day and I’m excited to be in that environment. Ultimately, I want to end up practicing law anywhere space and national security intersect.”