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New bar group advocates for military spouse JDs

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After graduating from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 2003, Lauren Pope passed the Ohio bar examination on her first try. She passed the bar exam again seven years later in Illinois, and last year in Indiana.

poperecent-15col.jpg Lauren Pope is married to Maj. T.J. Pope, a helicopter pilot for the Indiana Army National Guard. When T.J. was on active duty for the Army, the couple lived in Germany, which Lauren said later led to a perceived gap in employment, something that’s hard to overcome in the legal profession. Also pictured is the couple’s son, James. (Submitted photo)

Pope – like many spouses of military members – relocated frequently while her husband was in the Army. After moving back from Germany in 2006, Pope and her husband lived in Chicago while he earned a Master of Business Administration. She looked for a law job in Illinois, but she didn’t get favorable responses to her résumé.

“They didn’t understand the employment gaps, I guess,” she said.

Pope, who now lives in Carmel, said she was frustrated that people in charge of hiring lawyers didn’t know that moving frequently is a requirement for military families. But she found she wasn’t the only one whose frequent moves were creating a barrier to legal employment after learning about the Military Spouse JD Network.

“My husband actually sent me a link,” Pope said. “I don’t know where he found it – they haven’t been in existence very long – and he said, ‘Hey have you seen this?’”

Support for spouses

Last year, Erin Wirth – an administrative law judge in Washington D.C. and wife of a U.S. Coast Guard officer – began looking online for other people like her.

She learned that the Ohio Women’s Bar Association in 2009 signed a resolution advocating for provisional military spouse admission rules. Behind that effort was Mary Reding, a lawyer and Air Force spouse. Wirth contacted Reding, and in 2011, the two women launched the Military Spouse JD Network, a national bar association for military spouses.

Since graduating from law school, Wirth has moved seven times, in accordance with her husband’s Coast Guard orders. Like Pope, she has taken and passed the bar in three jurisdictions.

“The actual passing of the bar isn’t really the hard part. I think the hardest part is maintaining your career, and what the bar exam does is cause a huge gap because it’s only offered twice a year,” Wirth said.

According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, most states require significant advance notice from lawyers who plan to take the bar exam. Arizona’s deadline for submission of applications is Aug. 15 for the February exam. Delaware offers the exam only in July. Military spouses may, therefore, end up moving to a new state and waiting months to take the bar exam.

Even in states that offer reciprocal admission, Wirth said that gaps in employment created by frequent moves may affect eligibility to be admitted to the bar. For example, when she moved to Minnesota – which offers reciprocal admission to attorneys who have practiced for 60 of the 84 preceding months – she learned that the bar didn’t consider one of her prior jobs to be an “active legal job,” which made her ineligible to be admitted.

Military spouse JDs also hope to be understood by their peers, who sometimes question why anyone would choose to enter a marriage that could stunt their career growth.

“I said from the beginning I didn’t want to be a military spouse, it wasn’t good for my career, and yet, here I am,” Pope said. “Yes, it’s a choice to marry someone in the military. Once you’re in, you’ve got to go along (with relocation), or you succumb to the high divorce rate.”

Wirth said she’s not sure everyone understands that relocation orders are not optional; her husband can’t simply refuse to go where he’s told to go.

Lawyers can talk about these and other concerns through the Military Spouse JD Network and its Facebook page.

“We love reading the comments because they are always very touching, and they keep us very motivated,” Wirth said.

Challenges with overseas employment

In 2006, Pope and her husband moved to Germany. She knew enough German to get by in day-to-day life, but Pope didn’t feel she would be able to practice law in a foreign language.

“I spent nine months just applying for anything,” she said.

She found a civil service job as a tax preparer with the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, a low-level position, but one with some legal component. She then moved up to a better position in civil service and in March 2008, landed a high-ranking job where she supervised attorneys and provided legal advice for hundreds of Americans based in Germany. But when she returned to the United States, she found that hiring managers did not understand how civil service operates, or that her ending rank of “GS21” reflected the importance of her job.

At an interview in Indiana for a clerkship, the person reviewing her résumé noted that she never seemed to stay in one job for long.

“People don’t really understand. Yes, you’re moving and you do the best you can, and even once you get out, you still get that moving stigma,” she said. “I’m somehow in a category with suspicious characters.”

The push for reform

In February, three months after hearing testimony from Wirth and Reding, the American Bar Association House of Delegates adopted a resolution endorsing the waiver of bar exam requirements for military spouses.

On April 18, Idaho became the first state to adopt military spouse admission guidelines, and other proposals are in the works. Carissa Long, assistant director of communications for the Indiana State Bar Association, said the state bar was not currently aware of any discussions regarding relaxed admission requirements for lawyers who are military spouses.

Wirth said that the network continues to grow. So far, it has added about one lawyer per day since its inception.

“We sort of expected it to slow at some point, and we haven’t hit that point yet,” she said.

Wirth and Reding will continue to advocate on behalf of military spouses, hoping that new employment opportunities will come along with relaxed admission requirements.

“I don’t think these rules were put in place to make life more difficult for us, I think people just didn’t know that military spouses were out there,” she said.•
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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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