By Kulia Petzoldt
As a 1L and military spouse, the best advice I have received thus far in law school has come from my Legal Writing professor; and it isn’t even about comma placement. It is about reputation. Look around, these students and professors are your future colleagues and likely references for future employment. She urged us to go out of our way to present ourselves as best we can, knowing our reputation in this industry begins now.
While the advice seems logical, it’s an area where I am so very glad to have had life experience to solidify the importance of public behavior. Bad jokes abound that imply being a female military spouse is all about predatory home sales, pearls, and wearing unearned rank. In reality, I’ve found it is a great testing ground for polite behavior and the impacts of lapses in judgement. Polite behavior not only in how we greet one another, but also in active listening and respect for the myriad of ways that each spouse we meet is rising to the challenges of military life. The impacts come when I fail, as we all do sometimes, to ignore preconceived notions about educational and work backgrounds, regional predilections for sports or cultural differences. Many of the southerners I’ve met love football, but assuming that in early conversation could’ve let me miss getting to know the best Texas-raised Art Historian friend who makes me smile. Forgetting that education is not an indication of intelligence, but rather one of access to these institutions combined with the time and money, would’ve risked my friendship with a military spouse I am lucky consider a sister who is now finishing her undergraduate diploma after twenty years as a successful paralegal. These life lessons, of which I’ve carefully only listed my successes for public consumption, are the lifeblood of the military spouse network.
These same military spouse lessons translate to life as an attorney: your reputation is everything – you can build it brick by brick or damage it in an instant. What we say and do matters no matter the context. MSJDN is a wonderful example of this: by working together to improve the working life of military spouse attorneys, we’ve all put our best foot forward, chosen to lift one another up and bring our best selves to the table for military spouse attorneys today and those who will come after us.
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