Duty calls: Law student serves as intelligence analyst in USAF and National Guard


Photos courtesy of Jessica Dailey

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Detroit Mercy Law student Jessica Dailey has served for nine years as an intelligence analyst in the USAF Reserve and Air National Guard.

“I was raised a Marine Corps brat and was inspired by my father's 21 years of service, which took us to amazing places such as Turkey, Thailand, and Japan,” she says.

“As an undergrad student, I spontaneously took a yearlong sabbatical in order to find my greater purpose in the military—cliché as it sounds—and haven't looked back since.”

Dailey—who deployed to Afghanistan in 2016 and 2019 in support of combat search and rescue (CSAR) and close air support (CAS) operations—notes that serving in Afghanistan was an incredibly formative experience.

“I experienced indirect losses of fellow members we supported during ground assaults, as well as provided emergency intelligence support during a suicide bomber attack on Bagram Air Base in 2016,” she says. “These experiences undoubtedly shaped my desire to serve others and instilled great pride in being an American.”

Dailey was drawn to study law through her love of research, writing, and advocating for those that cannot advocate for themselves.

“Throughout my varied professional experience pre-law school, I learned early on that knowledge is power, and such knowledge is not always easily provided to those in underprivileged, underserved, or underrepresented communities for a variety of reasons,” she says. “I enjoy being able to research a legal issue and present practical solutions to potential clients and colleagues.”

She would argue it’s essential to have some life experience before studying law.

“I believe having experience with different jobs, personal hardships, and education allows you to better support potential clients and analyze a legal issue from unique and varying perspectives,” she says. “Additionally, I think having life experience humanizes you to your clients and solidifies your credibility as a person who is empathetic to their needs.”

Dailey began law school part-time while working as a Trade Compliance Specialist at an aviation company in Pontiac—a position that was eliminated due to the pandemic, during her second trimester of pregnancy and second semester of law school.

“I was devastated, but it was a blessing in disguise,” she says. “I’ve been fortunate enough that my husband chose to support our family on a single income and encouraged me to transition to full-time law school after the birth of our son. I’m now a full-time law student and enjoy every moment of it.”

She has particularly appreciated the UDM professors and support staff, all of whom have thoroughly supported her legal education through its many transitions.

“I found out I was pregnant at the end of my first semester, and I cannot express enough how supportive and encouraging my professors were in ensuring a seamless transition from taking a semester off to enjoy time with my newborn son, to then returning to law school the following year,” she says. “UDM ensures every law student is given the tools they need to succeed, no matter their walks of life or challenges.”

Dailey—who refers to herself as a “2-1/2L”—prepared for taking a semester off for the birth of her son and postpartum recovery, took summer courses that fulfilled many upper-level requirements.

“I have just a few foundational requirements left to fulfill before I can call myself a true 3L,” she says.

Her confidence as a law student and future attorney was renewed when she received the Book Award for Applied Legal Theory and Analysis I.

“My sincerest appreciation goes to Professor Michelle Richards, who taught me so much about thinking outside of the box and ‘pulling the reader by their nostrils’ to effectively explain and defend a legal argument in writing,” she says. “Additionally, Professor Richards welcomed my concerns about navigating motherhood while attending law school. Although she is tough, Professor Richards is an exceptional educator and mentor.”

Starting her first clinic with the school’s Veterans Law Clinic this summer, she is excited to apply her knowledge and experience as a military member to best serve veteran clients.

Dailey also serves as vice president of the school’s Veterans Law Society, that provides student veterans opportunities for fellowship, increased awareness of legal issues affecting veterans nationwide, and improves outreach to prospective students with military backgrounds.

“As VP, I’ve enjoyed participating as a ‘plank holder’ in building the organization from the ground up, as UDM did not have an active Vets Law Society for many years before its most recent inception,” she says.

“Motherhood and the pandemic created challenges for me as the VP, and I’m grateful to our Secretary Michael Norris—a rising 3L—for keeping the Society afloat as we navigate rebuilding our outreach and activities post-COVID.”

As for her post-graduation goals, Dailey is particularly interested in marrying her intelligence, military, and trade compliance background to work as in-house counsel for a major defense company like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, or Raytheon.

“After having my son, I became a true ‘helicopter mom,’ monitoring the use of plastics and toxins in our home, food, and personal care products—so alternatively, I’m also interested in lobbying the government for better health and environmental regulations,” she says.

The pandemic was something of a blessing in disguise, allowing her to study remotely and rest at home near the end of her pregnancy—“And it gives me flexibility to stay home with my son when he’s sick, which happens often—my fellow parents know that daycare germs can be the bane of our existence,” she says.

Dailey and her husband Hugh, an Aviation Maintenance Technician in the Coast Guard, makes their home in Clinton Township with 9-month-old Elias, and a feisty Aussie Shepherd/Hound mix named Cato.

“While I thoroughly enjoy being a career woman and law student, my greatest role is that of mother and wife,” she says.

When not in the role of law student or mama, Dailey enjoys reading, working out, “and eating my weight in sushi or pizza,” she says.

She recently launched a podcast, “Trials and Trimesters,” with two rising 3Ls, Riley Wesemann and Jasmine Castro, who, like her, became pregnant during law school. The trio shares the trials and tribulations of juggling motherhood, law school, and everything in between.

From 2017-19, Dailey volunteered with Hope Against Trafficking (HAT), an organization providing support and resources to women affected by human trafficking in metro Detroit and Canada.

“HAT provides a place to live and opportunities for personal and professional enrichment at no cost to the survivor, allowing them the time and space to heal and rebuild their lives,” she says. ”It’s a beautiful organization and one I’m blessed to have worked with.”

A native of Jacksonville, Fla., Dailey enjoys Michigan’s four seasons.

“My husband and I love that no matter the weather, there’s always something fun to do in Detroit,” she says. “From museums to concerts to the amazing food, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed living in Detroit and will be sad to move when the Coast Guard says it's time.”

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