My Why

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The financial guarantees of a government job’s first and the fifteenth payment schedule and the shiny medals and other carrots of “career enhancing jobs” that the military dangles before you, makes it rather uncomfortable to leave the service, to risk comfort, and instead dive headlong into conflict.

So, what is “My Why” for starting the Law Office of Jocelyn C Stewart, Corp.?

Several factors weighed on me when I decided to start this Law Firm in 2012. Chief among them was how powerless I was in helping service members who came into my office for “suspect rights.” When they would lean forward and look for guidance, all that I could tell them, by Army Regulation and policy, was to keep their mouth shut, keep their head down, and return WHEN the military took action against them. Seriously.

As I listened to their stories, my mind immediately went to the investigative plan I longed to put into action: evidence collection, text message preservation, witness interviews, all of it. And there I was, unable to do a thing for them other than to tell them to keep their mouth shut. It was excruciating.

Improving the Lethargy of Uniformed Counsel’s Legal Triage

From a policy perspective, I get it. Well, sort of. There are only so many resources that government uniformed counsel can give to all the service members facing potential action. It is like really bad legal triage. The Army classifies them as “Priority I”, “Priority II,” and “Priority III” actions. The Army’s Trial Defense Service (TDS) Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) breaks down TDS attorneys’ duties into these three “priorities.”

Priority I duties are those that uniformed attorneys generally must perform. They include representing soldiers at general and special courts-martial and pretrial investigations under Article 32 and advising pretrial confinees.

Priority II duties are those primarily performed by uniformed attorneys, unless their particular office does not have sufficient resources. Priority II duties include counseling soldiers pending formal nonjudicial punishment under Article 15, counseling soldiers suspected of an offense, representing soldiers at lineups, (which NEVER happens) counseling soldiers regarding summary courts-martial, and representing soldiers recommended for administrative separation. Priority II duties also include representing inmates at sentence vacation hearings and disciplinary and adjustment boards, and counseling soldiers on administrative actions based on alleged violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) or related to UCMJ proceedings. If that particular uniformed defense office does not have the resources to perform priority II duties, attorneys working for the local staff judge advocate must perform them; those attorneys are in legal assistance, and their attorney positions are typically filled by jags fresh out of law school and officer basic course.

Priority III duties are those legal services not listed above which are usually performed by attorneys in the local staff judge advocate’s office, but which uniformed defense counsels perform by agreement with the staff judge advocate.

Early Intervention

My Why for this Law Firm is early intervention. We fill the gap, so members do not have to “wait and see.” Defending service members is always Priority One for us. We make every effort to stop the matter before it becomes a threat to their career or even their liberty.

I am haunted by the Soldiers who came into my office as a walk-in, who I knew had evidence that would corroborate their version of events. How many of them could I have saved from the onslaught of unjust prosecution? Memories of their anguish feed my why.

What A Retainer Should Mean

Answering the call to help other counsel who are on the broader team of defending servicemembers invigorates me like little else. When I am teaching at conferences of uniformed defense counsels, I feel alive. Watching the synapses fire as they comprehend a concept or make a connection about how they can leverage an expert is incredibly rewarding. Learning that my Shaping the Battlefield book series is scattered across military base legal offices across the country renews me.

But as I have built my reputation and reach, military lawyers confide in me about less than scrupulous “competitors.”

In my role as the President of the International Association of Military Defense Lawyers and as someone who values being someone who other counsels reach out it, I have come to know that many firms have the model of getting “retained” so if something happens, the client knows they have a lawyer available. What I know is that this does little more than give the member an expensive way of causing their attorney to be behind the curve. Free uniformed counsels in that way are “retained” to represent them; in terms of preparation and readiness, paying a retainer at a civilian law firm that is not actively seeking to “kill” the case does very little. That is not our model.

A retainer at Law Office of Jocelyn C Stewart, Corp. means effort and time in a parallel investigation. We use that money to fund defense investigative steps, including ensuring exonerating digital evidence is preserved, witnesses are interviewed before their memories fade, documents are collected, and electronic data is safeguarded.

Participating in the Investigation Through Counsel

When we make our independent assessment that turning over some or all of our evidence is in the client’s best interest, we do. In many instances, we provide evidence to the military investigation and try to undermine even a probable cause determination. In others, we hold back because we can tell that no matter what we present the action will move forward.

From decades of experience, we also leverage motions, expert requests, and interviews to bend the government to dismiss cases before trial. There is no sweeter victory than allowing the client to sidestep the stresses of a criminal trial.

The Right Answer

Despite the news headlines trials result in the full acquittal, the sweetest victory are the cases we get dismissed. No person should be made to suffer through a trial when they do not have to.

Years ago, a client’s parent who was funding his defense asked candidly how it could be that my business would survive if we “killed” cases early. Wouldn’t that mean we take a financial hit because generally speaking we keep getting paid the longer the case progresses? My response was the right answer demands it, and how likely will you be to refer future clients to the Firm if we ease your child’s suffering sooner than later. He nodded and he understood.

The reputation I have built as a practitioner and now CEO of this Law Firm means we do not compromise our core values. We do not take cases that we cannot add value to, and we do not take cases when we know there is no chance for success (like with Presidential Pardons). Thankfully, there usually is hope, and we leverage every possible tactic and resource to turn hope into the reality of relief.

Authenticity, Being Real and Reachable

For years, I spent my professional (and personal) life behind a mask, trying to be perfect and worse, trying to appear that I was. As part of my own journey and commitment to be authentic, I decided to put down the walls and show the military community I was a real person, with kinks in my armor, frustrations and passions, and committed to letting others see all of me: even the messy, and particularly the messy.


On TikTok and Instagram, I let down my guards and I make videos to educate the military community and others about legal rights, trends, and ways to protect themselves from the “military’s injustice” machine.

Honestly, I have been shocked and humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response.

But that isn’t what my TikTok and Instagram presences are about. Instead, it is about being real, and reachable. It’s my outlet and my outreach.


Another factor in My Why for why I stay in the fight on behalf of our servicemembers

In December 2018, I attended the two-week Master Resiliency Trainer’s Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a period that profoundly shifted my perspective on life and work. With a packed schedule and a skeptical mind, I initially dismissed the training as another check-the-box activity. Yet, what unfolded over those two weeks was nothing short of transformative.

The instructors all hold master’s degrees in Sports Psychology, and they introduced us to concepts like “thinking traps” and “mental cues.” I quickly realized I had been a prisoner of my own adverse thinking. Whether it was jumping to conclusions, feeling perpetually trespassed against, or catastrophizing scenarios, my professional and personal life was steeped in discord. This revelation was unsettling but ultimately liberating.

My practice as a defense attorney, especially within the realms of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, demands not only legal acumen but an immense capacity for emotional resilience. The epiphanies from the course reshaped how I engage with my clients and colleagues, and how I broach every client, every case.

As I continue to navigate both my personal and professional paths, I carry with me the lessons from that resiliency training—not as a shield, but as a beacon, guiding my way forward.

Committed and Caring

I’m still standing, more committed than ever to my role in speaking truths for those who cannot. Each case I take on carries the weight of these experiences, the learned lessons, and a deeper understanding of resilience. My journey through personal setbacks and professional challenges has not only shaped my character but also sharpened my purpose.

I am far from perfect. But the power of vulnerability and the courage to face one’s own mental traps head-on is where real strength lies. I share my stories in my blogposts and on social media in the hopes that it may inspire others to become a force for change: building an army of advocates to champion those whose voices are being silenced by Congressional agendas. If we are united, we can overcome the forces that would seek to obtain convictions over justice.

When you care as much as we do, we take every case on like it is on behalf of a family member. We live our values, and the foundation is that we take cases where we can make a difference. Other firms might take your money. We will champion your cause.