This week, as part of my position here at NMFA working on spouse licensure issues, an article from The Daily Report popped up in my news feed. It detailed a recent board of governors meeting from the State Bar of Georgia. Apparently, things got heated when board members were asked to vote on whether or not to allow military spouse attorneys the opportunity to provisionally practice law in Georgia.
One board member was quoted as saying, “Why should we let these people come in our state who may not know a…thing about Georgia law and maybe get [their clients] in more trouble than when they started?”
As a military spouse, being called “these people” will always get me riled up. It’s not a very nice thing to say, and I am being nice by putting it that way.
But here’s the thing: I LOVE being one of “these people,” and the board member who called us “these people” obviously doesn’t know that “these people” are amazing.
“These people” include military spouses who started out their lives with a plan, and things changed. They married a service member, committed to selfless sacrifice, duty, and honor.
“These people” followed their service member, with tens of thousands of dollars in law school loan debt and left high paying job offers behind. They put the commitment of their service member ahead of their need to make money.
Yet, “these people” remain committed to service of their own, advocating for clients and causes.
“These people” spent thousands of dollars, and hundreds of hours studying and sitting for bar exams, which would only serve them for two or three years. Many of “these people” have three or more active bar licenses before the age of 35, that require them to take continuing legal education courses annually (which cost money), pay annual dues, and adhere to the same code of ethics as their colleagues who are actively practicing.
But “these people” will earn less than those colleagues because they relocated with their service member spouse, over and over again. “These people” have been embraced by 12 states and the Virgin Islands, who recognize the value military spouses bring to the table, and provide a provisional license if a military spouse is licensed through exam in another state.
What “these people” are not asking for is a handout, a lower level of professional, or ethical scrutiny, or different standards. “These people” are asking for a reasonable chance to share their talent and commitment; an opportunity to advocate and represent, and to bring their very specialized, unique and broad perspective to the legal profession in the state where their service member spouse is stationed for what will be too short of a period of time to sit for another state bar exam (a 6-12 month process).
“These people” are serious, professional, dedicated, smart, ambitious, and repeatedly challenged in ways you can’t be if you practice law in the same place your whole career.
“These people” inspire me, and I am lucky to be able to call myself a member of the Military Spouse JD Network, made up of “these people” around the globe, working to, not only, improve each others ability to work and thrive in our careers, but to provide legal assistance and support to other military families.
And the amazing traits of “these people” aren’t limited to attorneys. Military spouses who need licensing accommodations include teachers, nurses, mental health providers, and more.
“These people” are committed to helping their communities, no matter what state they live in. Do not turn “these people” away. I promise, we are worth the trouble.