By Maureen Lavery
On October 21, 2016, the Military Spouse J.D. Network will kick off Making the Right Moves 2016, MSJDN’s annual career development conference created for the specific needs of military spouse attorneys. This year’s conference will be held at and generously hosted by Vinson & Elkins LLP, the law firm that also won the 2016 MSJDN Members’ Choice Award in recognition of its contributions to the career advancement of military spouse attorneys.
MSJDN member Adrianne Goins, Counsel in Vinson & Elkins’ International Dispute Resolution and Arbitration group, accepted the Members’ Choice Award on behalf of Vinson & Elkins at the MSJDN Annual Reception in May. Adrianne, the spouse of a retired Army officer, forged a meaningful legal career while balancing it with her husband’s active duty assignments – she is truly a military spouse attorney success story, and she made it work in the years before MSJDN existed.
Before going to law school, Adrianne held a series of jobs in the political arena, including a position as a Senate aide and later worked on national security issues for the Clinton campaign. Adrianne also led a task force promoting women for political appointments in the national security area in the Clinton administration and later became a political appointee herself, working in the Pentagon first as the Speechwriter for the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and then as the Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. Through her work at the Pentagon, Adrianne noticed that the people who really knew how to analyze and solve problems were the lawyers, which motivated her to seek a career in the law. She went to law school at the University of Virginia and joined Vinson & Elkins as a litigation associate after graduation in 1999.
Adrianne met her husband while working at the Pentagon, and they shared their first date in the Pentagon executive dining room for lunch. In the grand tradition of many military spouse attorneys, Adrianne finished law school at UVA while keeping up a long-distance romance with her then-fiancé, who was at Fort Leavenworth for CGSC and later deployed to Bosnia. A subsequent assignment took the couple to Germany, requiring Adrianne to leave her job at Vinson & Elkins after only one year in practice. She decided to look for legal work in Germany and was hired by Shearman & Sterling’s Frankfurt office to work in international arbitration due to her language fluency skills – in English. Adrianne acknowledges that in many cases, attorney jobs are a matter of luck and of being in the right place at the right time, but she advises military spouse attorneys to be ready to receive luck by keeping an open mind and thinking about specific jobs in terms of what you can add, not what you lack. Once she and her husband returned to the D.C. area from Germany, Adrianne was able to transfer to Shearman’s office there, and she later decided to return to Vinson & Elkins.
Adrianne is looking forward to Making the Right Moves 2016 to meet more military spouse attorneys and help make connections. Of MSJDN, she says, “We share our experience with each other. It’s not top down. Everybody is mentoring everybody else.” This year’s conference will feature, among others, a panel on federal positions and hiring and a workshop centered on PCS-proofing a legal practice. Tickets and additional information are available at the Making the Right Moves 2016 event page on the MSJDN website.