The Kansas Supreme Court recently published Proposed Rule 712A relating to the admission of military spouse attorneys seeking to practice while residing in the state due to their active duty servicemember’s orders. This proposal stems from a filing by the Military Spouse J.D. Network in Summer 2015. However, the rule as currently written includes a supervision clause. Inclusion of such a requirement means that in order for military spouse attorneys to practice under the rule, they would have to be formally supervised by a member of the Kansas bar, akin to a legal intern. This unnecessarily burdensome provision was not included in MSJDN’s request for a rule, as supervision requirements in other states have proven to be a continuing barrier to military spouse attorneys, thus defeating the purpose of such a rule.
Currently, young and seasoned military spouse lawyers alike are unable to obtain law licensure in Kansas unless they have been actively practicing the past five of seven years— a high bar given the demands and transient nature of the military lifestyle. Thus, the proposed rule is meant to provide an option for career-minded military spouses to continue their legal journey without the need for repeated examination, at high cost and often significant delay. Licensure after each PCS (military move) can take up to a year (for application, character and fitness review, bar examination, and bar exam results processing) and cost thousands of dollars. And licensure is only half the battle – the job search is its own struggle! Repeating this process every 2-3 years, often with little notice of the move from the military, proves challenging even for the most determined military spouse attorney. These facts keep a significant number of qualified and capable spouses out of the workforce, at significant cost to the economy as well as the families, often facing financial stress and already bearing the burden of deployments and separation in service to our country.
A supervision requirement imposed on military spouse attorneys is impractical and burdensome on both the military spouse and the supervisory attorney. Military spouses new to the community already face difficulty finding new employment and do not yet have the connections in local legal communities to facilitate and develop supervisor-supervisee relationships. Client fees and expenses will also increase—clients hiring a military spouse attorney will also, in effect, be hiring their supervisory counsel. The result? The proposed rule does not in fact support military families as intended, but would instead serve as a significant barrier to military spouse attorneys seeking career portability.
The unintended consequences of the supervision requirement are severe. As indicated by past MSJDN survey results, 50% of military spouse attorneys have opted to live separately from their servicemember in order to maintain their legal career. Military spouse licensing accommodations aim to reduce this number and allow military families to remain united with each spouse pursuing their chosen career. The goal of the Kansas rule should be to remove the barriers that force military families to make the gut-wrenching decision to live separately. Kansas has the opportunity to show meaningful support to military families with a rule that provides real opportunities for employment, not supervised positions akin to interns.
Contact the Kansas Supreme Court at firstname.lastname@example.org by July 24, 2016, requesting removal of the supervision requirement from Proposed Rule 712A.
- Barred in Kansas? Please include your status as a member of the Kansas State Bar along with your support for the rule without the supervision requirement.
- Living in Kansas? Share your story as a military spouse attorney and how a rule without supervision would help you.
- Ties to Kansas? Please share this story with your contacts and ask them to submit a comment in support of the rule without the supervision clause.
- Didn’t waive in elsewhere because of a supervision requirement? Please share this with the Court to let them know that supervision serves as a barrier, nullifying the benefits of the rule.
- Practicing elsewhere on a military spouse attorney license? If you are practicing on a military spouse license in another state without supervision and your employer would be willing to submit a comment about how awesome you are and the lack of need for supervision, we have a sample letter for your reference.
Need some sample language and handy facts about military spouse licensing? Click here for talking points you can use in your comment to the Court.
For more information about how to help the MSJDN Kansas State Rule Change Team, please contact Katherine Lee Goyette at email@example.com.