On January 4, 1972 – 49 years ago – Secretary of the Navy John Chaffee approved the establishment of the Legalman (LN) rating and converted 275 Sailors to LNs. Today, the LN community includes more than 600 active and Reserve LNs – a diverse force of skilled paralegals delivering essential support to the Navy Fleet around the globe.
"We play a vital role in enabling our warfighters, upholding processes, and ensuring good order and discipline. My fellow Legalmen inspire me to work hard and remind me that we are Sailors first and always. I'm proud to be an LN and serve with a team of bright professionals," said LN1(SW/AW/IW) Lindsay J. Small, who currently serves as Special Counsel to the Chief of Naval Operations.
The Navy LN community provides a broad array of paralegal services at military commands ashore and afloat. They assist judge advocates in the litigation of military justice cases, support the provision of legal assistance, and provide legal services to commanders and senior leaders.
During the past year – among the most challenging for the Navy LN community – LNs consistently demonstrated resilience through adversity. They supported COVID-19 mitigation efforts, took part in major investigations, deployed for long stretches of time in support of mission-critical efforts, and worked tirelessly to improve the JAG community. Through it all, LNs maintained their reputation of excellence and professionalism.
Among Sailors across the Navy Fleet, LNs are leaders and role models. During the past year, the LN community has pushed past previous limits, becoming even more resilient, knowledgeable, resourceful, and versatile. They have inspired and empowered others to meet their greatest potential.
"Serving as a Legalman in the U.S. Navy is an extraordinary privilege that I take a lot of pride in every day. I am consistently impressed with the level of talent, knowledge, and drive the members of this community bring which embody the ideals of the 21st Century Sailor,” wrote LN1. (SW) Bryan A. Lottes, who currently serves at the Office of Naval Intelligence.
“This year has shown me that being a Legalman means to be legendary, challenge yourself, have imagination, doing the right thing, be an individual, make a real difference, believe you can do anything and you will. Happy birthday to all my Legalman brothers and sisters around the world!"
William (Billy) Van Deren is an LN community plank-owner, who has witnessed – both in uniform and as a Navy civilian – the community’s growth and progress. He recently reflected on the LN community’s birthday and his career in the legal field.
“The LN rate requires continuous learning and performance. When an archer misses the mark, he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bull’s-eye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim – improve yourself,” Van Deren shared.
Van Deren recalled the most important life lessons he acquired as an LN and summarized them in a series of phrases that have guided his daily work: Always do the right thing, excellence then is not an act but a habit; The greatest achievements are those that benefit others; Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it.
“Today’s warfighters are different from the warfighters of the past. We are more dispersed, digital, and diverse but the one thing we have in common was we all faced new challenges. Their success ‘our success’ was teamwork, communication, and continue sense of service to our nation,” said LNCM(SW/AW)Brook Larkins, who serves as command master chief at Naval Legal Service Command and senior enlisted advisor to the JAG.
LNs across the JAG community agree: Serving as an LN is a privilege, and the rating has a proud heritage. In the face of challenges – large and small, seen and unforeseen – LNs always rise to meet them. Happy 49th birthday, LNs!