Improving the lives of military families by supporting military spouses

The Military Spouse JD Network is an international network of legal professionals improving the lives of military families. We advocate for licensing accommodations for military spouses, including bar membership without additional examination.

In February 2012, with the support of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, the ABA House of Delegates adopted a resolution supporting changes in state licensing rules for military spouses with law degrees.

In July 2012, the Conference of Chief Justices voted to support a resolution for admission of military spouse attorneys without examination. You can read the resolution here, which was accompanied by a detailed report drafted by MSJDN.

MSJDN provides a model rule for bar licensing authorities interested in supporting military families through admission without examination of military spouse attorneys. MSJDN supports such a rule change in each jurisdiction; you can see our progress here.

Our Mission:

MSJDN supports military spouses by:

  • Advocating for licensing accommodations, including bar membership without additional examination,
  • Providing education about the challenges facing military families,
  • Encouraging hiring military spouses, and
  • Providing a support network.

MSJDN includes military spouses and partners from all branches of the United States Military: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy as well as spouses of retired service members and legal and military organizations who support our mission.

The Barriers:

Geographic Insecurity
Military Families are geographically insecure, moving every two to three years, often with tours overseas. These moves are based on the needs of the U.S. government, and are mandatory for the service-member. Although the spouse and children may technically refuse to move, this causes obvious hardships on families already often separated by deployments.

Legal Profession
Attorneys are required to be licensed in each state where they practice. Licensing can take up to a year, sometimes more, for the application, character and fitness review, bar examination, and processing. Licensing can cost $4,000 to $5,000 each time for preparation materials and fees. All gaps in employment must be justified on bar applications and can cause delays in admission.

What this means for our Members:

It is not unusual for our members to have taken 3 or 4 different bar examinations. Less than 1/3 of MSJDN members have full-time legal employment. Half of MSJDN members are unemployed and actively looking for work, under-employed in non-attorney positions as paralegals/secretaries, or can only find part-time work. MSJDN members report that the biggest challenge to finding and keeping employment is frequent moves and lack or portable employment opportunities.