Guest Contributor, Lori Volkman, 2013 Navy Spouse of the Year & MSOY Nominee
It’s no easy road when you decide you want to be a lawyer. Law school requires a lot of focused dedication, a lot of money, and a lot of family sacrifice. I’m pretty sure my husband ate peanut butter and jelly for three years straight. For all three meals. One day during my first year in law school I came home in a sleep-deprived state, sat in the middle of the kitchen floor, and started crying. In typical military fashion my husband only stared at me and offered his most consoling, “if it was easy everyone would do it.” It was harder than I ever expected.
But for military spouses, it’s a sacrifice that must look even more insurmountable: after three years of law school, there will be three moves, three different bar exams, and three thousand dollars for each state license. All that work will produce a “seasoned” lawyer with no job, no partner track, no client list, and $100,000 or more in school debt. It just doesn’t seem worth it.
But all of that is changing, thanks to the volunteer efforts of military spouses.
MSJDN: Military Spouse JDs Band Together
In 2011 Mary Reding was approached by another military spouse because of her well-publicized petition efforts in the state of Arizona, to see if they could form a national bar association for military spouses going through similar hurdles. The two women believed at that time that they were alone, or few and far between. Neither one knew any other military spouse attorneys. They knew PERSEC would keep them from being able to extract spouse emails. The two women knew that if they wanted to have a community, they’d have to create it.
Just two years later, the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN) has garnered over 650 members and attracted an all-volunteer board that has appealed to national business and legal organizations. Overwhelmingly, the attorneys joining their ranks have reported the very same sentiment: “I thought I was the only one!”
MSJDN leaders have met with the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, become involved in DoD programs that explore military spouse licensing, and talked one-on-one with United States Supreme Court Clerk and retired Army JAG Gen. Suter. After gaining the support of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women, they were then able to get a unanimous resolution passed at the ABA’s 2012 Annual Delegation which supported military spouse attorney licensing changes, and a flood of support came in. Since then Arizona and Idaho have adopted rule changes, and final approval is now pending in North Carolina. With the newly added support of the National Conference of Chief Justices, there are now rule changes pending in influential states such as California, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Maryland. Rule change efforts are percolating in other states too, as military spouses across the country continue to join the cause.
MSJDN’s latest effort to connect their members with the business community is a mentoring and networking symposium to be held in Washington DC on May 22nd. Updates about that and all of MSJDN’s other news can be found via their website: www.msjdn.com.
Let’s face it. When you’re an organization full of lawyers, there’s an awful lot you can do. But when you’re also an organization full of military spouses … there’s nothing you can’t!
Lori Volkman is a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Washington State, writer of a military spouse blog, mother of two and wife to a Naval Officer. She serves as Communications Director of the Military Spouse JD Network. Her writing has appeared in Reader’s Digest, the New York Times at War Blog, and on CNN, NBC, and CBS. She’s recently been nominated for U.S. Navy Spouse of the Year, and you can support her many efforts by voting for her here.