Military spouses often sacrifice our careers for our country, our spouse and our love of both. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
After college, and following a short career detour, an entrance exam (the LSAT), three years of arduous full-time schooling (to the point where it’s recommended that you don’t work during this time), several internships, an ethics exam, a $1,000 two-day bar exam, a summer-long $4,000 prep course for said exam, and a mountain of law school debt (hundreds of thousands of dollars, even with scholarships) later, I found myself licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia.
Looking back now, it’s funny that everything required of prospective attorneys can fit into one sentence, a sentence that doesn’t even begin to describe the years of stress, pressure, late nights, early mornings and hunger (both literal and figurative) I endured before I could set foot in a courtroom and call myself an attorney. And I was one of the lucky ones. Many of my classmates went through all of the above, only to come out on the other side still searching for job opportunities.
All of that to say, the amount of investment required to acquire a professional license like mine is significant. Not only does it take a financial toll but an emotional one as well. Those of us who seek one are told it will be worth it. We make plans to squeeze absolutely every bit of worth out of our licenses and careers. Post law school, we continue on with our lives. We engross ourselves in our careers. We find love. We start families. Many of us wed members of the military. I fell in love with an Air Force chaplain and so began my nomadic life.
But herein lies the crux of the issue.
The hurdles faced by military spouses who hold professional licenses are significant. Frequent moves across the country present the largest issue because, at least for attorneys, each state requires the spouse go through the licensing process all over again. This often means a long application, months of processing time and a hefty fee that costs more than the price of a bar exam every, single, time our service member is commanded to move. On average, military couples move every two to three years.
Meanwhile, the military spouse’s career languishes. They face either gaps in employment that they must somehow explain during the next permanent change of station move, or working at a job that doesn’t match their skill set and underpays them. We end up working at fast food restaurants, management offices, etc., taking on any position that will supplement our household income.
It’s a situation I thought I would find myself in in the state of Nebraska. Fortunately, though, the Nebraska Supreme Court recently approved an amendment to the original rule for admission by motion. The amendment created a new class of applicants, Class 1-D applicants, specific to military spouse attorneys.
I was the first military spouse sworn in under the military spouse accommodation.
Before the rule change, I would have had to pay almost $1,000 to apply for admission by motion. After paying, I would have had to wait up to 120 days for my application to be processed before my job search could begin. By then, my husband and I would have been into our second year of service in Nebraska and gearing up for another move. Instead, I paid half the price and my application was processed and approved in 30 days.
Military spouses often sacrifice our careers for our country, our spouses and our love of both. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This is why amendments to rules like Neb. Ct. R. 3-119 are vitally important. It’s my hope that other states follow suit, and that barriers for military spouses will continue to be broken.