New Rule To Help Lawyers In Military Families

Jul 5, 2013

This week, a new Illinois Supreme Court rule took effect that's intended to make it easier for spouses of military personnel to get a law license.

Angela Allen practices law in Chicago and, with a husband in the Illinois National Guard, she's one of about 800 members of the Military Spouse J.D. Network.

Allen says the job market for lawyers is tough enough as it is, but with the frequent transfers that are a part of military life, she says the time and expense of getting a new state law license made it even harder on the lawyer-spouses.

"They were facing large gaps of employment due to having to take the bar every time their spouse member moved, which is on average two to three years," she says.

Allen shared the story of a fellow lawyer whose husband was twice stationed at Scott Air Force Base. The woman didn't know how long she'd be in Illinois each time — the first assignment was just a year, but during the second posting, her husband deployed to Afghanistan, and she was here for two-and-a-half years. Her career, however, was on hold.

"Both times she didn't even bother taking the bar or practicing while she was here," Allen says. "Because again, she had no idea (how long she'd be in Illinois), and the application and the studying and taking the bar can take several months … and be very costly."

Through the Illinois Supreme Court's Commission on Access to Justice, she urged the court to make an accommodation, and the justices agreed.

The new rule says as long as a military spouse has a law license in another state — and meets Illinois' character and fitness requirements — they can get an Illinois license while their partner is stationed here.

Allen says Illinois is home to about 25,000 active-duty personnel. She says it's only the fifth state to adopt special rules for military-spouse lawyers.