Vinson’s Legalman: They Converted and You Can Too

January 24th, 2024

[PACIFIC OCEAN] – Down the starboard mess deck passageway of USS Carl Vinson, inside a small office, a team of Legalman (LN) leaf through pale sheets of paper and type on their computers. They work tirelessly to help Sailors with their legal affairs, prepare correspondence, write transcripts, and so much more.

None of these Sailors started their career as a Legalman, though. Every Legalman aboard Vinson was previously an undesignated Sailor or another rate.

Chief Legalman Sarina Celaya, the legal departmental leading chief petty officer, was an undesignated airman. Legalman 1st Class Patricia Quick, the legal leading petty officer, was a Machinist’s Mate. Legalman 2nd Class Kiara Brown was a Hospital Corpsman. Legalman 2nd Class Diana Redondo was an Aviation Boatswains Mate (Handling). Legalman 2nd Class Evelyn Castillo was an undesignated airman.

Brown wanted to join the Navy as a Legalman from the very beginning. As a kid, she watched the show ‘JAG,’ which highlights the work of Navy Judge Advocate Generals (JAG). She knew she wanted to be involved in criminal justice, but wasn’t sure how until she spoke to her recruiter.

“My recruiter was talking to me, and I was looking at her board of rates, and I saw Legalman,” said Brown. “I asked about it and she said that they’re Navy paralegals. She said I couldn’t do that because it wasn’t an accession program.”

Brown’s recruiter explained she would have to join as another rate and then convert to become a Legalman. She decided to be a Hospital Corpsman and then became a Legalman.

It took Brown three years as a Hospital Corpsman before she was accepted as a Legalman. She still keeps the picture of her letter of acceptance into the conversion program on her phone.

“I cried when I got the letter saying I made it,” said Brown.

She got the news two months after her conversion board, a screening composed of at least three senior Legalman or experienced JAGs, and the last part of the conversion process for the Sailor.

“It’s basically like a job interview,” said Brown. “They just want to make sure you’re a good fit.”

Legalmen can work hand-in-hand with NCIS during criminal investigation, and are often the bearers of bad news. These situations require them to act with maturity and grace. The JAG Corps wants hard-charging, hardworking and motivated Sailors who have a strong sense of integrity, so they have made the process of becoming a Legalman different than other conversions.

“Be prepared to work, there’s a list of requirements,” said Quick. “The conversion process isn’t easy and will test if you actually want to be a Legalman.”

Among those requirements includes writing a typed statement explaining why Sailors want to be a Legalman, completing the Yeoman basic qualification (NAVEDTRA 1500.9B) and answering questions at a screening board for the area of responsibility they’re in.

“If you’re attached to the ship and you’re trying to convert, my chief and I set up that conversion board,” said Quick, who plays a very active role in the entire process.
Legalmen handle the entire conversion process, unlike other conversions which are handled by the Navy Career Counselors.

Legalmen also recruit other Sailors to convert to the rate. They hand out pamphlets, conduct symposiums for conversions, and do on-the-job training to encourage people to experience the rate and decide whether they want to convert.

“Because this isn’t a rate that you can come directly into, every LN is a recruiter for our community,” said Quick.

The legal department aboard Vinson recently got a conversion package accepted for the Southwest Area of Responsibility, which Quick is excited about. She hopes to get more people interested and provide on-the-job training so they can truly understand the rate.

“I’m excited to meet everyone that’s interested,” said Quick.