New York State Bar Association Recognizes Unique Licensing Challenges Facing Military Spouses

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) partnered with the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN) last week to submit a barrier-breaking new rule to the Chief Judge of the State of New York.  Proposed Part 523 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals would allow the state to issue licenses to military spouse attorneys who are residing in New York due to their spouses’ military orders, so long as they are already admitted and in good standing in another jurisdiction.  “Military families move every two to three years, with assignments across the country and around the world.  Taking an additional bar exam in each new state creates an enormous barrier to a meaningful career,” says Mary Reding, co-founder of the MSJDN.  The MSJDN is working on the licensing issue nation-wide.

The New York partnership follows a national trend of support.  In February the American Bar Association unanimously passed a resolution urging bar admission authorities to adopt rules that accommodate the unique needs of military spouse attorneys who move frequently in support of the nation’s defense.  The NYSBA co-sponsored that ABA resolution.  Later that month, First Lady Michelle Obama highlighted the attorney licensing issue while issuing a Department of Defense report in support of streamlining employment licensing across state lines for military spouses.  The report suggests, “[g]iven the volunteer nature of our military, the sacrifices military families make for this country, and the importance of retaining these families to maintain the readiness of our military, ensuring that licensing procedures do not needlessly hinder military spouses is critically important.”

The NYSBA Committee on Standards of Attorney Conduct (COSAC), provided technical comments and suggestions on proposed Part 523.  “This proposal is a very sensible accommodation of New York’s bar admission requirements to the unusual needs of lawyers from other U.S. jurisdictions who need to move often to support their spouses in uniform,” says Joseph Neuhaus, COSAC chair.  “These are lawyers fully qualified in another state who are typically here for relatively short periods of time.  We in New York, the home of West Point, should make particular efforts to welcome military spouse lawyers into the Bar and assist them in making a career in the law despite the unusual demands of national service.”

“New York’s connection to the military community is strong, particularly after 9/11,” says Christine Bacon Abramowitz, MSJDN’s New York Director. “It is fitting that New York be among state leaders to eliminate licensing barriers for military spouse attorneys.”

The Military Spouse JD Network is dedicated to eliminating barriers to the practice of law and making the legal profession a portable and viable career option for military spouses.


For more information about the Military Spouse JD Network and the proposed rule change in New York State, contact Mary Reding at and visit