What to Expect When You Have Absolutely No Idea What to Expect

By Tara Gaston, MSJDN Member, Writer in Residence

One of the major challenges of life as a military spouse attorney is the number of moves that can be expected in a servicemember’s career. Even better are the number of moves or separations that are totally unexpected! In any given period, a military spouse is ten times more likely to have moved across state lines than non-military spouses. While these moves come with a number of benefits, including travel and exposure to new people and environments, they are very difficult for working spouses, especially those who rely on state-issues licenses in order to engage in their profession. At the same time, there are a number of ways to prepare for the inevitable moves, while also collecting valuable experience to make you a more attractive candidate at the next duty station. 

1)   Keep a database of contacts and experts in your area, including their location. This list can be referenced upon arrival at a new duty station, or when putting in a “wish list” for the next job. These contacts – and don’t just use them when searching for a job! – may be invaluable in connecting you to others who can improve your practice and even alert you to work and volunteer opportunities.Google Drive is a great way to keep a list that you can access from the web or offline.

2)   Network (but change your idea of networking)! It will often not be possible to network in person, especially before arrival at a new duty station. On the other hand, it is possible to network now on a larger than local scale. Join Twitter in order to keep up on news and happenings, and find influential accounts to follow, such as msjdtweets and MilSpouseJD. Join your local bar association (they may have contacts elsewhere also), but also get involved in regional or national bar associations, such as the American Bar AssociationMilitary Spouse JD Network , and the National Women’s Law Center. Keep in mind, however, that where you are admitted may affect your ability to interact in some ways and it is important to make sure to follow the advertising and social networking rules of your practice location(s) (EX: Florida’s new rules on social networking)

3)   Maintain a running list of your non-legal activities, with not only your position, and the organization name, but also contacts (helpful for obtaining references later) as well as key descriptor phrases. It is important to use phrases that may later be useful additions to cover letters or resumés, including using active verbsand using non-legal pursuits to describe behaviors that are beneficial for your legal positions. For instance, involvement in family readiness groups (FRGs) can use skills in negotiation, administration, organization, research, etc.

4)   While legal work is ideal, the number of moves that military spouses make in a career may lead to some periods of underemployment. During these periods of underemployment, it is important to maintain your skills and knowledge base through attendance at conferences, meetings, and webinars where possible.

Next month, we will look at organizational and planning skills that are generally beneficial to attorneys, but especially useful to military spouse attorneys as they move around the country – or the world.


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