Georgia Doesn’t Want “These People…” and They Mean YOU, Military Spouse!


Georgia-Bar-Doesn't-Want-These-People---Military-Spouses

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.

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director and JD

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  1. 1
    Leigha Landry Wanczowski

    “These people” live where their spouse is stationed, spend money in that local economy, join local chambers of commerce and/or business groups, and volunteer in the schools. It’s interesting that these people’s contributions are no problem until they need a temporary license. I’m sure the opposition has no issue with them volunteering and even raising local families’ children through babysitting jobs. I’d even venture to bet they don’t mind if these people volunteer their legal experience, as long as it’s unpaid and doesn’t compete with the rest of the residents – not that these people’s residency is any different than that of a high-class executive and his family stopping by for a couple of years to open a new company branch.

  2. 3
    Leigha Landry Wanczowski

    I should clarify my comment for anyone who is not familiar with the military. These people and their families are different from the executive in my example. While the business exec could simply quit, those in the military must go where they’re told. These people’s spouses have no choice. And still they make the best of each new place and assimilate to the local culture.

  3. 4
    Shannon Callahan

    Leigha…uh oh…you said these people look out!

    People us that term all of the time. How would you prefer them to state it? It sounds to me that you are looking for something to be offended about. They have a valid point. If you have not taken the state bar exam then there is the possibility of an attorney getting his/her client in trouble.

    “What “these people” are not asking for is a handout, a lower level of professional, or ethical scrutiny, or different standards.” Oh but you are asking for different standards. Other lawyers cannot just come into a state and start practicing law, but you want that privilege.

    • 5
      Branching Out: A blog by the National Military Family Association

      Thanks for the comment, Shannon. Actually, Georgia is a state that allows reciprocity for out of state attorneys. Those attorneys are not required to take the Georgia bar exam. However, it does require them to have a certain amount of time in practice, which is where military spouses are, again, unable to get a fair shake due to military orders being shorter than most would need to be in practice. We hope the Georgia Bar Association can find a way to accommodate our best and brightest, who would love to be able to continue their career alongside their spouse.

  4. 6
    Josie Beets

    Thank you Brooke and NMFA for your perfect, perfect words! I think the big issue that creates confusion in these states is that of choice. I do not choose to be in Georgia, or Tennessee, or California — I am there because if I want to live with my Soldier, I must continuously move. I agree that if I am going to choose to live in Georgia, I should take the Georgia bar in order to practice law. But my family is not choosing to live there, my spouse is assigned there by the U.S. Military. All I ask is recognition and appreciation of the fact that my family does not get to choose to where we live.

  5. 7
    L. Mitchell

    This is a discussion that I need to share with a former good friend of mine. She didn’t understand how military spouses are any different from civilian spouses (who work and have jobs outside the home, or chose to be stay-at-home moms). I tried to enlighten her but didn’t get through, completely. Thank you for giving me the motivation to try reaching her again. As a military spouse I have had to restart my career SOOO many times and I hope my husband will understand how important it is to recognize this, as he doesn’t want to have a retirement ceremony and recognize the sacrifices my kids and I have gone through. . .

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