What to Expect When You Have Absolutely No Idea What to Expect—Part Two

By Tara Gaston, MSJDN Member, Writer in Residence

One of the greatest benefits of the military life is the ability to travel and live around the world. The opportunity to practice in a variety of locales is beneficial to both the psyche and the professional life.

On the other hand, this tendency to move can cause significant stress, especially in certain military communities. There are some service members who can count on orders a year out, with knowledge of when and where they will be moving in plenty of time to plan a move, network and find a job, and arrange childcare.

And then there are other communities, such as members of the submarine force, or the "silent service," which tend to receive orders to move every 24-36 months. While the general time of these orders can be discerned, they may be issued any time - or even changed at any time! Additionally, the locations available fluctuate wildly, and orders and moves only get crazier the longer a service member stays in.

The choice to live separately in order to maintain a more stable legal career is always a possibility, but many military spouse attorneys choose to move with their partners whenever possible, especially if they have children. These moves require a great deal of flexibility and preparation on the part of the military spouse attorney.

One way that military spouse attorneys can prepare for unexpected moves is to utilize “the cloud.” The cloud allows for stable off-site storage of practice and client data, as well as making it easier to run a virtual practice or telecommute to a distant practice. The American Bar Association has a detailed list of cloud computing products, including time and case management programs, billing software, and electronic signature and document storage. Utilizing cloud products increase your portability because you can manage your practice, and your documents, from anywhere. It is important to note, however, that not all cloud products are appropriate for attorneys, and some may be appropriate only for certain uses (such as certain of your own records) and not for others (such as client records). In general, free services will NOT be appropriate for professional use.

Another important tip for military spouse attorneys is disaster or emergency preparedness. While being prepared is always important for attorneys, military spouse attorneys are particularly susceptible to emergencies, of either the natural or man-made kind. Being proactive is the best policy here, and the American Bar Association also published a guidebook for attorney preparedness (PDF) The ABA’s guide to security and disaster planning (PDF) is also particularly relevant to military spouses, as these attorneys deal with not only personal and business security concerns, but also potential national security concerns if their position as a military spouse attorney is known.

While building and maintaining a law practice of any size or specialty, the military spouse attorney, especially one who moves with received orders, must stay flexible and prepared, even more so than a “traditional” attorney. Staying up-to-date with the latest technology, maintaining appropriate security, and preparing for emergencies will leave the military spouse attorney well ahead of the curve and prepared to deal with most of the challenges of practicing as a military spouse.

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