Chief Judge Col. Rodger Drew nears end of military legal practice
April 26, 2017 — After 30 years of practicing law in the military, Chief Judge Col. Rodger Drew, Jr. will be retiring from the Air Force in December.
As the 1987 University of Houston Law Center graduate weighs options for the next chapter of his career, he also may need to make changes to his wardrobe.
"I never had to worry about what I'm going to wear to work," Drew said. "I have a uniform, so I'm going to have to go buy some more suits."
Drew currently works as a chief appellate military judge, but has had a number of roles with the Air Force. Part of his practice has been international, with cases tried in Germany, England, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea and Spain.
"The Air Force has sent me all over the world," Drew said. "It's a varied practice that I've really, really enjoyed. I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of foreign lawyers, military and civilian, as well as foreign judges. I've gone to a lot of places I never thought I'd go.
"I love the work, I love the people. I love the places I've been able to practice. I came in thinking it was going to be four years. Thirty years later I'm retiring because it's a military requirement."
Drew credited former Law Center Dean and Professor Newell Blakely's evidence course for developing a passion for trial advocacy. His desire to work in the courtroom led him to the Air Force, where he gained litigation experience early and often to start his legal career.
"What attracted me to come in the Air Force and stay in frankly was the opportunity to get into court right away," he said. "I was trying cases as a prosecutor in my first year. In most civilian practices, you're taking minor cases and will be second and third chair for quite some time."
With three decades and counting of legal experience, Drew points to his legal education for teaching him how to advocate, critically evaluate issues and demonstrate inquisitiveness.
"What law school teaches you is how to think like a lawyer," Drew said. "Whatever law you learn, no matter how great the professors are, as soon as you walk out the door it's obsolete because the law is ever-changing. But it teaches you how to analyze and how to find the current law. It's a lifelong learning process that's unlike many other professions."
When asked what advice he would give to students considering a career in law, Drew urged them to pursue subjects they enjoy during their undergraduate education.
"As I talk to people who are interested in the law, particularly undergraduates who may be considering a path to law school, one of the things I recommend is don't take pre-law," Drew said. "Law school will teach you all the law you need to know. Take the classes you want, that you like and that you're going to do well at. Your grades are going to matter more in terms of getting into law school than doing pre-law."
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