By Katherine Goyette

MSJDN presents the 2015 MSJDN Survey Report, revealing the results of the military spouse attorney survey that ran from late December 2014 to mid-January 2015. 225 military spouse attorneys participated in the survey, allowing MSJDN to understand information about the organization’s composition as a whole, as well as on an individual level.

As an organization, MSJDN is predominately composed of women (96% women, 3.5% men, 0.5% transgender). The majority of members represent active duty families (89%), but MSJDN also represents guard, reserve, veteran, and retired military families. All branches of service are as well represented: Army 37%, Navy 25%, Air Force 24%, Marines 11% and Coast Guard 3%. MSJDN includes spouses who are enlisted (19%), warrant officers (1%) and officers (79%). The most common career field of the servicemember spouse was in the “support” category (logistics, supply, acquisitions, force management, systems analysis, transportation, etc.). The career fields of aviation, “warfare” (artillery, armor psychological operations, special warfare designations, and field electronics) and JAG were the next largest career field designations of MSJDN spouses. A handful of servicemember spouses represent the “medical” category, which includes physicians, dentists and nurses.

Most members are married to their servicemembers (85%), with another 3% engaged to them. Of the members married to servicemembers, approximately 4% are in a relationship with a same-sex partner. The majority of members have been in a relationship with their servicemember between 5-8 years (26%), followed by 2-5 year relationships (20%), and a significant portion of the time members have been married has been during military service. Approximately 53% of MSJDN members have children, with the majority of households having one or two children ages five and under.

Frequent permanent changes of duty station (PCS moves) every two to three years are a regular occurrence for our MSJDN military families. Approximately 69% of members indicated that they had experienced two or more PCS moves. Some members have experienced more than ten PCS moves! Often, members will not move with their servicemember; about half of members have lived remotely from their servicemember in order to maintain a legal career. Of those members that reported having to live remotely from their servicemember spouse, almost 25% reported living remotely between one and three years, and 26% have lived more than 1,000 miles away from their servicemember.

Most MSJDN members (89%) are members of the legal profession. The remaining members are law students or members who have not yet been licensed. In addition, MSJDN members have varying levels of legal experience, with 19% of members with one to three years of practice, 28% of members with 3 to 7 years of practice, just under 20% of members with 7-10 years of practice, and 22% of members with over 10 years of practice in the legal field.

The two most common practice backgrounds for our members are small firm practice and government practice. However, approximately one third of MSJDN members have experience working in a law group with at least 50 lawyers. A little over a third of members also responded that they were provided the opportunity by an employer to work remotely, though only 13% of those members were allowed to continue working remotely with the legal employer after a PCS move.

Most MSJDN members (85%) have a license to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, but only 37% responded to having full-time employment in a job requiring a law license. Approximately 28% of members are unemployed. About a quarter of MSJDN members reported that they did not seek new employment after their most recent PCS move, and another quarter reported that they could not find employment as an attorney after a PCS move. Of the remaining members who were able to find work in the legal profession after their latest PCS move, only a third reported that they were able to find work within 6 months of moving.

MSJDN members also reported significant law school student loan debt. The majority of members finished law school with some debt, the greatest concentration of members incurring between $80,000 and $140,000 in student loan debt, with another 32% of members graduating between $20,000 and $80,000 in student loan debt. About 18% reported incurring more than $140,000 in student loan debt after completing law school.

The 2015 MSJDN Survey Report provides valuable demographic information about MSJDN’s unique membership. It will be used in the organization’s advocacy efforts for law licensing accommodations as well as networking opportunities with both legal and military organizations.

Read the report in its entirety here: 2015 MSJDN Survey Report.