Law school is a breeze compared to running a prison or rebuilding bomb-shelled infrastructure as a military officer in Iraq, says Irma Jacobson.

“I’m not saying law school is not challenging, because it is. But it helps put things in perspective: No one will die if I don’t get an A-plus in contracts,” explains Jacobson, a summer associate with Jackson Walker in Austin who will earn her law degree at the University of Houston Law Center in May 2013.

Jacobson says her experience in the U.S. Army has helped her so far in law school, and she expects it to come in handy in her future legal career.

“You figure out how to prioritize, what needs to be done, and how to do it,” says Jacobson, adding, “It also helps in being able to work with other people that are from completely different backgrounds. That’s one thing I like working at a law firm.”

Jacobson earned her undergraduate degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 2004, and she entered the Army as a first lieutenant in the military police corps. As a military police platoon leader she and her first unit of 44 soldiers deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006.

In Baghdad, Jacobson helped oversee construction of a prison she had helped design, and then she supervised her unit in operating the facility. After she informed her commander about her civil-engineering background, he also assigned Jacobson to an infrastructure-reconstruction project.

“When things got blown up and there were attacks, my team would go back in, and we would design and we would reconstruct that area as quickly as possible,” Jacobson explains.

Later in her military career, Jacobson was a captain working as a rear detachment commander in Fort Hood, administering a budget of more than $200,000 and supervising the training of thousands of soldiers before their Iraq deployments. She was honorably discharged in 2009.

Jacobson says she has wanted to be a lawyer since she was 12 years old. Her middle school was named after U.S. District Judge Filemon B. Vela of Brownsville, and he was a role model for her. She realized judges were lawyers first, and “the versatility and longevity of that career really enthralled me,” she adds.

Aiming to become a litigator, Jacobson says she hasn’t decided which area of law she’d like to practice, but she notes, “Construction law litigation would be very interesting with my civil-engineering background.”