There is no rigidly defined system by which an individual progresses from the entry level, through journeyman, to managerial or executive positions. To a great extent, individual progression depends on demonstrated performance, potential, and both functional and geographical mobility.


A generic CP 56 career ladder is provided at Figure 1. It reflects the general types of positions through which an attorney may progress; from the initial hire Civilian Associates Program Attorney to membership in the Senior Executive Service (SES).

The career ladder is divided into three broad command echelons and does not strictly follow Army structure. For example, although the headquarters, USACE, is not in the top echelon of the Army structure, it is considered a top echelon office for attorneys because the legal office is headed by a qualifying authority. Conversely, TRADOC is an Army Command; however, for purposes of the career ladder it is considered an Intermediate Command Level.

Although not conclusive, the three career ladder command echelons can generally be summarized as follows:

  • HQDA/HQ, Qualifying Authority: Comprised of the Office of General Counsel; Office of The Judge Advocate General; Office of the Chief Counsel, USACE; Office of the Command Counsel, AMC; and the HQDA Field Operating Agencies of these organizations.
  • Intermediate Command Level: Comprised of those legal offices at a command level below the qualifying authority, but above more subordinate legal offices. These offices are generally at the former Major Command (MACOM) level and include AMC Major Subordinate Commands and USACE Division legal offices.
  • Installation/Operation Level: Comprised of legal offices generally found at the operational level with no subordinate legal offices. The absence of an intermediate command level between itself and the qualifying authority does not necessary affect the legal office's classification as Installation/Operation Level.

The career ladder is presented in a manner that illustrates how scope of responsibility increases from installation/operation level positions in the lower-left quadrant to the top SES positions in the upper-right quadrant. The matrix graphically articulates how responsibility is a function of both grade and echelon - to reach the top positions of the career field. Achieving the widest scope responsibilities will likely require attorneys to assume some degree of functional and geographic mobility.


1. Functional Mobility

Although attorneys may be able to achieve their career goals within a single specialized area, multi-dimensional and multi-disciplined experience is a factor in the career program. Broad-based experience is valuable as commanders increasingly look for general policy guidance in addition to traditional legal reviews and as staffing challenges require civilian attorneys to advise on a broader range of legal issues. Functional mobility also increases career advancement opportunities.

2. Geographic Mobility

While possible to achieve career goals within a limited geographic area, geographic mobility will be an important factor, especially for those attorneys seeking advancement to GS-15 equivalent positions or membership in the Senior Executive Service. One or more geographic moves may be necessary to obtain the necessary skills for senior position placement. Supervisors should encourage their attorneys to be mobile to develop skills at a variety of organizational levels consistent with the individual's career goals and the needs of the Army.