Samantha Hulliberger Feature: Dream Job with U.S. Air Force JAG Corps Realized
It was the phone call Samantha Hulliberger had been waiting on for five years. When the second-year WMU-Cooley Law School student picked up the phone that day, she wasn’t sure what kind of news would be waiting on the other end of the connection. She soon found out.
“The Air Force called to tell me that I had been selected for direct appointment upon graduation from Cooley!” she beamed. Lifelong plans were coming together for Hulliberger. In addition to finding out that her dream job would be waiting for her upon graduation, she also learned that she’d achieved two other milestones – both of which are complementary to reaching her ultimate goal of a career in the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps.
First, she was informed that she’d been chosen from a lengthy waiting list for an Air Force externship. After a four-month stay on that list, she was granted the externship and will spend Summer 2023 in Washington, D.C., assigned to Andrews Join Base in the 316th Wing Legal Office.
Second, she was accepted into a highly sought-after, one-year ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), a college-based programs that prepares young adults to become officers in the U.S. military. The program is so ultra-competitive that typically only five to seven students in the nation get selected. This year, five were selected. Hulliberger is one of those five.
LONG LINE IN THE LAW
Hulliberger comes from a long line of family members involved in the legal arena one way or another. One of her grandmothers was a prosecutor and an assistant attorney general, a cousin is a prosecutor in Michigan’s Grand Traverse County, and her father and stepmother were both in law enforcement.
Hulliberger herself had first found herself in the medical field. However, she exited her job in neuro rehabilitation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and decided to move on. In the fall of 2020, she pulled up stakes and moved to Washington, D.C. to join a friend who needed a roommate to live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
“Sometimes you just have to go and see what happens,” she said.
Within a few weeks, she found a paid internship in Congress. “That’s the power of networking in D.C.,” she explained.
As her internship wrapped up, Hulliberger found herself in conversations about law schools and bar exams with an in-house counsel she had been working with. Those talks sparked her to think about her next move in life. Hulliberger decided to randomly register for the LSAT one day, and if she got a good score, then she would go through with applying to law school. She was admitted to Cooley in the summer of 2021, and she moved back home to Michigan to start school. It seemed like destiny. “Even in middle school, people would tell me I should be a lawyer because apparently I liked to argue.”
She quickly discovered that law school was the right path. “For once it felt like I was actually excelling at something. To finally be in a place I loved, but was also good at, was such an fulfilling experience.”
Soon after she started law school, a family friend encouraged her to look into the JAG program. Hulliberger immediately set things into motion, leading to her recent successes.
“When I graduate, I will be sworn in as an Air Force officer. I will be on Reserve Status until I pass the bar, then active duty.”
PIECES FALL INTO PLACE
In the meantime, getting the dominoes to fall in place has been the biggest challenge. A 2-L now, she needs to get her 12-month ROTC program to fall in place for her final year at Cooley. She also needs to get her field training in, so she’s working to make that happen in between graduation and taking the Bar Exam.
While getting the puzzle pieces of her future life to fit together, Hulliberger has remained active in law school. She is currently serving as the Managing Articles Editor for the Law Review, and she has also served as the Social and Public Relations Committee Chair for the Student Bar Association. She is also the current president of the Cooley Student Bar Association at the Michigan campus, competed last fall on the National Moot Court Team, works as a Teaching Assistant for Criminal Procedure, and served on the law school’s Grade Appeals Board.
Along the way, she has won the respect of many, including supportive faculty members.
Assistant Dean and Professor Erika Breitfeld noted that Hulliberger “is the epitome of a dynamic, motivated law student. She’s exceptionally bright, punctual, quick to think on her feet, motivated, and detail-oriented. She is a person who can unite people of different opinions and command the respect of a room with thoughtful and direct communications. Simply put, Ms. Hulliberger will be a shining reflection of all that the Air Force JAG Corps values and represents.”
Professor Tonya Krause-Phelan noted, “I am thrilled that Sam has been selected for the JAG program. While here, Sam has excelled academically. She consistently demonstrates high preparedness, strong analytical abilities, and a passion for the law. Unsurprisingly, Sam has served as my teaching assistant, where she mentors students, holding office hours, answering countless questions, and advising students. Sam has also emerged as a natural leader, participating in and leading student organizations. She is self-motivated and confident; her work ethic is unsurpassed. Sam has a bright career ahead of her!”