The United States Navy is in George Kunthara’s blood.
Ten years of Naval service, including two deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, had set Kunthara on a course for life—until a day in 2010. That was the day he attended the Collateral Duty Legal Officers School where he got the chance to learn about the military justice system.
Interacting with active duty judge advocates (known as “JAGs”), Kunthara saw how their real-world fleet experiences combined with their legal training was used to benefit the legal advice given to commanders and everyday sailors.
“I was instantly hooked,” recalls Kunthara ‘18.“I realized then that was what I wanted to do.”
Having made San Diego his home, Kunthara naturally turned his attention to California Western School of Law.
“Cal Western has a proven reputation for producing practice-ready attorneys who could be useful right out of the gate,” says Kunthara. “I learn best by doing, and if the school would fully support that type of experiential learning, I had found where I wanted to go.”
Kunthara faced a conundrum, however. Due to timing, he wasn’t able to apply for a program that would have kept him on active duty, sent him to law school, and transferred him into the JAG Corps.
“I decided to leave active duty, go to law school and then try to go back to active duty as a JAG,” says Kunthara. “Thankfully, I decided to stay a Navy Reservist while in law school, so that kept my foot in the door for the Navy,” he adds.
California Western was an excellent fit for Kunthara. He found the Clinical Externship Program immensely valuable. “I was able to work at the Region Legal Service Southwest Office at the main Naval Base in San Diego full-time,” he says. “There really was no substitute for that real-world experience.”
Kunthara singles out Professors Hannah Brenner, Leslie Culver, India Thusi, and Roberta Thyfault as hugely influential in his time at California Western. “The trust and confidence these professors had in me helped to fortify my self-confidence to take on new challenges and dive head-first into complex problems,” he says.
This confidence would be sorely tested as Kunthara applied to the Navy JAG Corps.
“I’ll be honest, I applied multiple times and kept getting turned down,” reveals Kunthara. “That hurt…a lot. Rejection certainly got easier as time went on, but I knew that if this was something I wanted, I needed to keep at it.”
Keep at it he did, with the help of family, faculty, and staff who kept encouraging Kunthara to continue to apply.
Vice Adm. Bruce E. MacDonald ‘87, JAGC, USN (Retired), California Western’s Vice President of Institutional Advancement was one such staff member who had a tremendous impact on Kunthara encouraging him to re-apply.
“Meeting Vice Adm. MacDonald at the swearing-in ceremony for new lawyers changed my life,” says Kunthara. “He was instrumental in my acceptance because he reviewed my application and honored me with a letter of recommendation. More so than that, he’s a tremendous leader and mentor and his positive attitude is infectious!”
Finally, in March 2019 Kunthara was accepted into the Navy JAG Corps.
“I can’t underscore enough the support and encouragement from California Western in helping me pursue my dream—a career as a Navy JAG. I’ve only reached this point with help, much of that from the school’s faculty and staff.”