From the Chair...

Standing Committee on Legal Assistance
for Military Personnel

Of the varying types of work undertaken by the LAMP Committee to constantly improve the quality and availability of free civil legal services available to military personnel, our role in supporting and informing policymaking decisions allows us to have a wide and systemic impact for the benefit of our servicemembers and their families. Our work has included seeking federal legislation to fund pro bono legal services for military members, strengthening existing federal law to enhance legal protections for servicemembers in a variety of contexts, and calling upon states to accommodate the ability of military attorneys to represent their clients in state court under special rules of admission.

Beyond matters immediately affecting legal protections and services for military personnel, we are, on occasion, called upon to support policy measures that more broadly address the welfare of military families. Most recently we have had the opportunity to lend our support to an effort to improve conditions for attorneys who are the civilian spouses of military members and who, because of the need to frequently relocate due to the spouse's military service, face significant challenges when seeking licensure to practice law.

The difficulties encountered by the lawyer–spouses of military members are not unusual among those experienced by military spouses under all types of professional licensing requirements. In fact, First Lady Michelle Obama, as a part of her Joining Forces initiative, has identified these issues as a high priority and has called upon the states to adopt uniform standards to support military spouse employment and license portability. Ultimately the goal of the Joining Forces initiative is to ensure that the unique burdens placed upon our men and women in uniform do not result in impairment of their spouses' ability to find employment or advance their careers.

This is an issue about which I am personally familiar. My wife, Chris, is a nurse and has faced this licensing challenge in nursing every time we were reassigned to a new state.  But as Joining Forces recognizes, my wife's situation is far from unusual; indeed, many of our own committee members know firsthand of similar experiences. And so, at least within the context of attorney–spouse licensing, the LAMP Committee believes this to be a matter affecting the legal profession about which we are qualified to take a position.

For our November 2011 meeting at Davis–Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ, we invited Mary Reding to speak to the committee about this important issue. Ms. Reding is an attorney and spouse of an Air National Guard pilot; she is also the cofounder, along with the Hon. Erin Wirth (Coast Guard spouse), of the Military Spouse JD Network. This group has been working to promote improvements to state admission–to–practice rules that will accommodate the particular circumstances experienced by military spouse attorneys. After Ms. Reding's briefing to the committee, LAMP signed on to support a resolution to the ABA House of Delegates to urge courts and state and territorial bar admission authorities to adopt rules, regulations, and procedures that accommodate the unique needs of military spouse attorneys who move frequently in support of the nation's defense. The resolution, primarily sponsored by the Commission on Women in the Profession, was prepared for presentation at the 2012 ABA Midyear Meeting.

At the February 2012 Midyear in New Orleans, I had a chance to again meet with Ms. Reding and Judge Wirth and to assist with lining up additional speakers on behalf of the resolution. As it turned out, my help was unnecessary—after Judge Wirth's excellent speech to the House of Delegates on the issue, there was no opposition and the resolution was approved without dissent. It was gratifying to see the matter embraced by the ABA as an important issue not only for the profession, but for military families generally. And it was only just a couple of weeks later, at a White House press conference addressing professional licensing for military spouses, that the First Lady recognized the work of the ABA in this area, stating that it was the goal of Joining Forces "to urge more national professional associations to follow the lead of the American Bar Association."

LAMP is proud to have played a role in supporting this important resolution, and we look forward to not only continuing to work with the Commission on Women in the Profession and the Military Spouse JD Network to move this particular cause forward from the ABA and out to the states, but also on other policy matters where we can actively support the needs of our men and women in uniform and their families.