Susan Smith Blakely

Women Lawyers/Military Spouses Make Progress

As if women lawyers did not face enough challenges. Now, here is another one. Can you imagine taking a bar exam in a different state every year or so? Probably not. Can you imagine moving to ten different states or countries to follow a spouse's career moves? Probably not. Most of us take only one or two bar exams during our careers, and we do not look forward to even that few. Military spouses, who also are lawyers, have challenges that most of us do not even think about. They have faced the multiple bar exam dilemma for years because their active duty military spouses are reassigned a lot, and the entire family has to relocate. Most of the lawyer/military spouses are women, so this places a huge burden on the women lawyers, who fall into this category. The choice has been to either take yet another bar exam in a new jurisdiction or to give up practice. I spoke to women lawyers about this dilemma at the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) meeting last summer, and they reported some progress at that time. I hope to see these women again at the 2014 NAWL conference later this month to congratulate them. Their hard work is beginning to pay off. Finally, the burden is being lifted due to the efforts of the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN). That organization is seeking to change the laws in all fifty states to accommodate military spouse licensing hurdles. So far, the MSJDN has been successful in nine states, including my home state of Virginia. I am so pleased that the Old Dominion State, with so much military tradition, has joined the ranks of the enlightened on this issue. The other eight states are: Idaho, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, South Dakota, Massachusetts and Colorado. Here's how it works in Virginia. The Supreme Court of Virginia recently ordered adoption of Rule 1A:8, the "Military Spouse Provisional Admission Rule," which grants admission on motion to military spouse attorneys who meet the rule's criteria, including previous admission and practice in another jurisdiction. It allows a military spouse attorney to practice law in Virginia for the duration of the service member spouse's military assignment there, as long as the lawyer spouse is associated with an attorney licensed in Virginia. The rule went into effect on July 1, 2014. For information on how this issue is handled in other jurisdictions, consult the MSJDN website. I know first-hand the sacrifice of military personnel and their families. This is the least the profession can do to keep lawyer/military spouses in the practice of law. It is just one less thing for them to worry about as they support their spouses serving our country.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.

Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 


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