CBA Effort to Help Meet the Needs of Military Spouse Attorneys Advances
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Posted by: Connecticut Bar Association
A proposed amendment to the Connecticut Practice Book recently received a recommendation by the Rules Committee of the Superior Court for review from the Bar Examining Committee. The bill permits a licensed attorney who is the spouse of a transferred active military member to practice in Connecticut without having to take the Connecticut bar exam.
Advocated by the CBA’s Veterans and Military Affairs Section, the proposed amendment to Practice Book § 2-13 is part of a nationwide effort by the American Bar Association (ABA) whose House of Delegates adopted a resolution urging state and territorial bar admission authorities to adopt rules, regulations, and procedures that accommodate the unique needs of military spouse attorneys who move frequently in support of our nation's defense.
“One of the biggest quality of life issues for military families, and a huge barrier to military retention, is the difficulty professional military spouses encounter continuing their careers in the face of repeated changes of residence,” said CBA Veterans and Military Affairs Section chair, Emily Trudeau. “This bill will allow qualified military spouses to continue to seek gainful employment as attorneys while their service member spouses are stationed in Connecticut, allowing these families to enjoy a greater quality of life and ease the financial burdens these families face.”
Attorneys who are spouses of military personnel face a substantial hardship in finding employment as attorneys in the state of the military spouse's duty station. The process of applying for admission, taking another bar examination, justifying all gaps in employment, and navigating the character and fitness review process can take a year or more. Bar examination preparation materials and fees in each state cost thousands of dollars. As a result, less than a third of attorneys who are spouses of military members succeed in securing full-time employment as attorneys, and about half are unemployed or underemployed as paralegals or legal secretaries, or can only find part-time work. Obtaining timely admission to the bar in the state of the military spouse's duty station is key to alleviating this hardship.
Rules similar to the one proposed by the CBA’s Veterans and Military Affairs Section have been adopted in 16 states (including New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) and the U.S. Virgin Islands since 2012 and are currently under consideration in 14 more states, not including Connecticut. Such rule changes to accommodate attorney spouses of military members have not only received the support of the American Bar Association House of Delegates but the Conference of Chief Justices as well.
“As a section, we are working with a variety of non-profit groups to advance this bill and hopefully expand it into other professions with state licensing requirements,” said Trudeau. “The goal is not to permit the unqualified to work in fields for which they do not have the appropriate expertise, but to not let a mandatory change in state of residence prevent a properly trained and qualified military spouse from pursuing a meaningful career.”