One year ago today, Mary Reding, Esq. and the Hon. Erin Masson Wirth formed the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN). Inspired by the launch of Joining Forces, these women, military spouses themselves (Air Force and Coast Guard, respectively), wanted to make a meaningful change in their own profession.
As attorneys, they knew firsthand the challenge of balancing a career with being a military spouse. In their profession, the two or three day licensing exam is only given in July and February. Every time they moved to a new state, they would need to apply for, study, take the exam, and wait for results. This process could take almost a year and cost thousands of dollars. Then, they had to convince an employer to hire them even though their stay in the area would be only a few years.
Since graduating from law school in 1995, Wirth moved seven times, took the licensing examination three times, and found eleven full or part time jobs. She considers herself lucky – she was able to find work in every port.
Because of these licensing and employment barriers, military families made choices. Often, either the legal profession or the armed forces lost a well trained and valued member.
After meeting each other online, they decided to change the system. They approached the American Bar Association. Working with the Commission on Women, they wrote a Resolution supporting military spouse attorneys. Wirth addressed the 500+ members of the ABA House of Delegates – the preeminent body of legal professionals – and urged them to support military spouses. The Resolution passed without any opposition.
Now, the MSJDN is reaching out to states. Idaho was the first state to adopt a specific admission rule for qualified military spouse attorneys. Other states are expected to follow suit. These rules will vastly improve the opportunity of military spouses to maintain their legal careers.
MSJDN adds new members every day. Wirth says, “The best part of the network is the amazing spouses I have met. No longer are military spouses on their own to navigate their careers. They have a tremendous network of experienced attorneys to guide them.”
Reding adds “The legal profession recognizes the service of military families. When asked, they are willing to accommodate our unique needs. We hope other professions will follow.”
If you are an attorney and a military spouse, go to www.MilitarySpouseJDNetwork.org to learn more.