Sunday 17 September 2017, evening:
Colonel, Army Legal Service: “Sorry to interrupt your Sunday evening with the family E-P, but it may be that you are tasked to go to Malaysia later this week. I thought you’d like to know.”
Me: “Thank you Sir, good to know indeed.”
I put the phone down and turning to my wife say something like, “Darling, guess what ...”
As British Airways Flight 33 took off from London Heathrow at around 2015 hrs on Saturday 23 September heading for Kuala Lumpur, I settled down to consider my forthcoming role over the next fortnight as Chief Legal Adviser on Exercise SUMAN PROTECTOR (the Ex) a Five Power Defence Arrangement Exercise in Malaysia. This might be putting it highly, because it may be more likely that I pulled out the Telegraph and continued where I’d left off in the departure lounge! However, notwithstanding, this experience is the sort you can expect if you sign up to a career as a legal advisor and officer in the British Army Legal Services (ALS).
During the Ex, I led a team of five lawyers from Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. The Ex headquarters were tasked to provide solutions to scenarios which included maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Since joining the ALS in 2002, and passing out from the Professionally Qualified Officers’ Course at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, I have served in all four areas of work upon which legal advice is provided to the chain of command. In brief, they are:
- Advisory (the provision of advice on employment standards, boards of inquiry and discipline matters under the Armed Forces Act 2006)
- Army Legal Aid (the provision of personal legal advice to soldiers and their families living abroad)
- Prosecutions (these are conducted by the Service Prosecuting Authority, based at RAF Northolt in London)
- Operational Law ( which includes advice on the Laws of Armed Conflict, including specifically customary international law and treaty law eg Geneva Conventions of 1949)
I have been fortunate to have served in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Afghanistan and Germany. In my current role at ALS’s International Law office in London, amongst other tasks, I have lectured on the Laws of Armed Conflict in Uganda, worked with the British Red Cross and advised on cases involving service personnel abroad. One recent tasking involved consideration of ALS’s role in respect of Defence Engagement.
All 100+ officers within the ALS are legally qualified solicitors or barristers and come from all three UK jurisdictions. Our current Director is Major General Susan Ridge, the first female to attain 2* rank in the British Army. Current postings are available in the UK and abroad – US, Australia, Germany, Cyprus and so on.
If learning new areas of law, military training including weapons handling, maintaining your fitness to the British Army standard and adventure training do not appeal, do not apply for this career!
Alternatively, if you seek new opportunities, are not afraid of a challenge and are interested in providing a professional public service to a demanding but fair client – apply today. I have been very fortunate in my time with the ALS and strongly encourage anyone thinking of the Forces to consider it as a career.
Lieutenant Colonel Eugene-Paul Grant works in the Army Legal Services International Law office based at the Ministry of Defence main building in Whitehall, London. Find out more about the Army Legal Services.