MSJDN is excited to announce that the 2016 Professional Excellence Award will be presented to military spouse attorney Donna Huneycutt at the Annual Reception on May 12th. Donna is co-owner and Chief Operating Officer at WWC, a woman owned consulting firm focused on the management and operational needs of government agencies. She is also the co-founder of both In Gear Career and Homefront Rising and an active advocate for career-minded military spouses.
Donna holds a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. Early in her career, Donna practiced corporate law in New York, focusing on private placements, start-ups and structured finance, with Dewey Ballantine, LLP and Friedman Kaplan Seiler and Adelman, LLP. Her clients included GE Capital, AIG, and Oxygen Media.
It was not until she met her (now) husband, Neal, that she experienced her first major career obstacle. Like so many military families, theirs started with a love story followed by multiple moves. Shortly after they began dating, the Navy assigned him to dry dock in Maine for a year. So Donna moved to Boston, where she practiced business immigration law with Chin & Curtis, LLP, representing FleetBoston Financial and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Her husband was then sent to Connecticut, but the two were able to maintain a shared residence in Providence, RI, despite long commutes. Neal received multiple strong verbal assurances that his next assignment would be at the ROTC unit at MIT in Boston, but he instead received orders to Italy for a three year tour.
An overseas move meant Donna would have to leave a job she loved and a firm where she hoped to one day make partner. She still vividly remembers the horrible conversation when she shared the news with the managing partners. Very regretfully, she said goodbye, though with the full intent to return to practice and hopefully even with the same firm.
Donna resolved to take time off during the tour in Italy to start a family and write a novel. She had no intention of working. It was then she realized she was absolutely incapable of not working! Shortly after that realization, Donna met her current business partner, Lauren Weiner, who had left her role as a financial and regulatory analyst at the White House to accompany her husband on orders to Italy. Donna and Lauren started teaching for the University of Phoenix’s MBA program on base. Donna started out teaching business law, but eventually she and Lauren taught eleven different classes between them.
When Donna and Lauren sought out other meaningful work on the base, they were told only low level roles were available. Donna was directed to paralegal positions, despite her background. Donna suggested that Lauren set up a vehicle to consult with the federal agencies she had worked with in DC, and WWC was created. Little did the two know that this idea would lead to their very successful future! Two weeks after the first WWC contract was won, Donna also started consulting with Lauren. The two were the quintessential accidental entrepreneurs, creating a vehicle for what is now an 80-person firm, largely managed and driven by military spouse professionals.
What has unfolded since that time in Italy is almost a decade of hard work and empowering adventure. As the business grew, they achieved their dream of overlapping their work with public policy, and diversified their practice across the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and other Federal agencies in thirteen different time zones. Donna and Lauren are particularly proud of the firm’s success in providing an upward professional trajectory for military spouses. WWC’s Chief of Staff, attorney Compliance Director, and several Directors are military spouses who all started working with the firm while stationed overseas. Currently, the WWC team in Norfolk is comprised of seven employees, five of whom transferred with the company when they were PCS’ed to Norfolk to assume progressively higher level roles. The team at Washington Headquarters Service and Department of the Navy is also largely comprised of military spouses that were rehired and promoted when they PCS’ed to Washington.
In 2014, Donna approached a House Armed Services Committee staffer with the idea that military spouse attorneys would be the perfect source of wartime acquisition support. As a result, she became involved in acquisition policy issues through the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) and sits on its Committee on Acquisition Management. In 2014, Donna co-chaired NDIA’s Small Business Committee on acquisition reform that responded to the HASC’s and SASC’s request for industry recommendations. She lectures regularly at the Eisenhower School at National Defense University (formerly ICAF) on small business acquisition issues, and at the University of South Florida on standards of Constitutional Review.
In addition to her roles as military spouse, mom, presenter and COO, Donna is also a powerful advocate for other career-minded military spouses. She co-founded In Gear Career with Lauren in 2010. This non-profit organization is aimed at addressing the issue of military spouse employment, not by just helping military spouses find jobs, but by helping them maintain and grow meaningful careers. In Gear Career recently merged with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program and continues to address the issues facing military spouses seeking sustainable careers.
Donna has also been an incredible supporter for MSJDN throughout the years. Homefront Rising was the brainchild of Donna, Lauren, and MSJDN founder Mary Reding Smith, concocted over cocktails and frustration with the lack of military spouses in leadership roles in the government. Donna was the presenter at the first ever MSJDN webinar in January 2015 and also a panelist at Making the Right Moves in both 2014 and 2015. She says, “The members of MSJDN and Homefront Rising are my tribe. Professionally minded military spouses need to connect and support each other like Lauren and I did in Naples. I want to keep that power of community going, focusing on morale and professional networking.”
Through her work with In Gear Career, Homefront Rising, and other advocacy outlets, Donna strives for the military to recognize that often the most professional active duty troops are married to talented professional spouses that need to work, and that the military needs to take this into account to make military life workable. Donna hopes to take her philosophy that issues can be solved at the human level and use it to make policy changes in our country. So many active duty service members separate from the military because one spouse has loans or because the spouse’s professional energy has no outlet and cannot sustain a career while moving every few years. The financial realities facing two-professional families may ultimately affect force readiness if not fully addressed by the military. “Warfare is an increasingly intellectual endeavor,” says Donna. “If you want to keep professionalism and intellect in the military, respect the professionalism and intellect in military marriages.”
MSJDN is honored to have Donna included in our ranks. Her commitment to excellence shines through in all she does. It is with great pleasure that we recognize the path Donna has blazed for military spouse attorneys with the 2016 Professional Excellence Award. Please join us on May 12th for the presentation and a celebration of all military spouses in the legal profession. Tickets and more information are available at on the event page.