By: Renunda Shea Lee, MSJDN member

MSJDN hosted our 9th Annual Making the Right Moves (MRM) 2021. The conference provided prolific speakers, creative thinkers, valuable career guidance and a space to discuss personal and family growth. Kristen Jones, set the mood in her opening speech by focusing on the tagline for the conference: “Reclaim 2021.” MSJDN chose the word, reclaim, to harness some of the post-pandemic enthusiasm.  She energetically announced that “reclaim” belongs to military spouses because “this is what we do.” She commented that military spouses face adversity, regroup, and reclaim our lives global pandemic or not. This is what we do!

The conference was a 6-part series with virtual sessions taking place throughout the month of October. Which even included bonus features like happy hours and a virtual, career fair with our dedicated, corporate hiring partners. With the assistance of our generous sponsors, we were able to provide free admission for law students for the first time. It was an enriching experience that we strive to repeat and improve upon each year, this would not have been possible without our group of sponsors. A big thanks to our sponsors!

The multi-day conference started on October 7th Mrs. Patricia Montes Barron, made opening remarks and kickstarted the event. Mrs. Barron is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy. She has a broad range of responsibilities as Deputy Assistant Secretary which includes advocacy and oversight that effects servicemembers and their families. She herself is a U.S. Army spouse who has traveled her spouse path for over 30 years. Mrs. Barron’s life is an inspirational story of growing a career alongside a spouse with a powerhouse military career. She is blazing a trail and creating a path for other military spouses to eventually follow in her footsteps.

The second session of the conference took place on October 12th was the first panel, entitled How Companies Can Attract & Retain Top Legal Talent in 2021. The panel featured: William Brown, Claire Tracey, and Suzie Rabinowitz, and was moderated by MSJDN’s Kate Hudson. This event allowed attendees to ask questions pertinent to their job searches. The panelists shared how their companies are recruiting and supporting military spouse attorneys. The panel included representatives from USAA, Amazon and a woman-owned, virtual law firm who answered attendee questions ranging from: pay and promotion inequality to military spouse hiring biases, and DIE (diversity, inclusion and equity). The panel was followed by a career fair featuring USAA, TCDI, Booz Allen Hamilton, Amazon, Perkins Coie and others. The company representatives met with military spouse legal professionals and law students, shared current employment opportunities, fielded specific questions, and even provided contact information for attendee follow-ups. It was the perfect opportunity for both the companies and job searchers.

On October 14th our third conference began with some brief remarks from Jess Collin of Amazon on the company’s continued commitment to MSJDN. Many thanks to Amazon for their dedication to employing military veterans and spouses. The third session provided a workshop led by Kelley Biskupiak and Susan Rietano Davey of “Prepare to Launch U.” Their global learning company guides women through challenging work-life transitions. Their main advice was to give yourself permission to make career changes or pivots: to prioritize your needs and welfare by taking them off the backburner.

The fourth session began on October 19th as our second workshop, Building Resilience and Embracing Opportunities: Finding Fulfillment as a Military Spouse Attorney, led by Jessica Hernandez. Mrs. Hernandez is a Navy spouse and certified, professional co-active coach for many attorneys. Her workshop helped us see: the importance of resilience and self-compassion to our fulfillment, how our brains react to negativity, how we can utilize certain tools to assist us with resilience, and how and when we can self-coach. After the session, we had remarks from Jim Beamesderfer of Prudential, the sponsor for the session. He emphasized the importance of networking as the success to acquiring the position that you seek. Jim even took the time to endorse the multi-day, multi-session format. Thank you to Prudential for taking on the mission of hiring veterans and military spouses and providing financial wellness education for military families.

Our fifth session began on October 21st with brief remarks from Larissa Fields of USAA (and a MSJDN member) who spoke about her personal testimony as a military spouse attorney working for USAA. Thank you to USAA for being a proud sponsor of MRM 2021. The fifth session also included MSJDN’s unique version of “marriage therapy” for dual-military households. The second panel of the conference, Reclaim Your Relationship: Navigating Dual-Career Military Families, featured MSJDN service-members and their spouses. The panelists for the session were: Holly Kresge, Jeff Kent, Lt. Col. Christina Kent, Michelle Richart, and Jamison Richart, and the moderator was Tiffany Wright, LCSW. This session focused on how these busy couples balance careers, marriage, and parenthood to reclaim control over their lives.

The sixth and final session held on October 27th was hosted by the Honorable Patricia Millett, Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court led by Lyndsay Lujan, the MSJDN president-elect. Judge Millet, a Navy spouse herself, shared how, when and where she discovered MSJDN and how important the network of like-minded, similarly situated spouses was to the longevity of her career. Judge Millet offered details on the Supreme Court fellowship program which provides invaluable experience the highest levels of the SCOTUS, such as working with the special assistant to Chief Justice. Thank you, Judge Millet, for being a shining example of MSJDN excellence.

During the entire month of October, MSJDN members gathered and collected knowledge, tools, and contacts. The journey was bookended with exemplary military spouses: a high-ranking, president cabinet appointee and a U.S. Court of Appeals judge and, in between, there were panels and workshops to build professional relationships, tear down walls keeping us from career advancements and reconstructing our paths as military spouse attorneys. See you next year!

We would like to hear your story and welcome your feedback and suggestions on how to make next year’s conference even more impactful, please email us at events@msjdn.org.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Renunda Shea Lee has been married to the Marine Corps for 15 wonderful years. Renunda and her husband are a blended family with a 13 year old, 22 year old,  23 year old, 30 year old, 2 dogs and a horse. Renunda is a native of Washington, D.C. where she has been a transactional attorney for over 15 years working in both the public and private sectors. Renunda and her family currently live in San Diego, CA where she is looking to reset her career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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