By Jessica Huskey, Marine Corps wife
I always knew growing up I wanted to be a lawyer. I can argue with the best of them and I like winning! When I was in undergrad at Carolina, I started working in politics, and I fell in love with it, so I pursued my career as a political operative. However, I was still in my early twenties and a female working in a male dominated Democratic Caucus of the South Carolina legislature. It was then that I realized if I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed to go back to school. At the time, Democrats were suffering severely in elections so I figured there was no better time to pursue my law degree. It was the perfect opportunity to do what I had always dreamed of doing.
However, going into law school, I was sure I would return to the political scene. Immediately after graduating from law school this year, I began studying for the BAR. Admittedly, I did not study like every BAR prep course advises you that you should. They recommend 10 intensive weeks of 8-10 hour days with one free day for rest, keep your life as stress free as possible (haha- that’s a joke), ensure that you have a support system in place (mine is over 7,000 miles away), and don’t make any life altering decisions or big moves (I relocated to my wife’s duty station). I was enrolled in an online BAR prep course through KAPLAN, and I did manage to force myself to watch all of the online lectures (each of which are anywhere from 2-4 hours long). Also, I took two MBE practice exams (the multiple choice portion) but wrote zero essays (my BAR counselors would shake their heads in disappointment at this).
As I said above, when I started law school I was determined to return to politics. It was my first internship doing federal criminal defense work that changed my mind forever. I loved being in the courtroom. It was what I had dreamed about as a kid. The power and awesome responsibility you have over someone’s future is scary yet very rewarding. I loved the daily challenge! Next, my second internship made me realize that I liked the other side of the aisle much better – helping victims. There, I worked with victims of domestic violence, both children and adults, to help them get civil protection orders against their abusers. Although this was civil work, it still had a criminal element because most of the defendants had pending criminal charges for the acts committed against the victims. With that being said, I LOVE criminal work and civil protection orders! Advocating for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, etc. is something that I get very passionate about, especially with children. As cliche as this may sound, I really do want to make people’s lives better or at least have a positive impact on them for the short time that I am involved in their life.
Preparing for a law career
One of the greatest tools that helped me prep for a career in law were the internships during law school. I would suggest to any law student to try different work opportunities in several different fields to see what you like best. You will almost certainly go into law school thinking you want to do one thing, and you will leave with completely new goals. Some people enter law school with a “Law & Order” mind set thinking they want to be in a courtroom. Many realize very quickly that isn’t the place for them. Others go thinking they want to do contract work and never want to see the inside of the courtroom, and they end up being the best litigators. You just never know until you try it all.
What about All of Those Military Moves?
Being an attorney is probably one of the hardest, if not the hardest, profession to be in as a military spouse. Every new state you move to requires you to take a new state BAR exam. There are several states that offer military spouse reciprocity if they are BAR’ed in another state and are coming into the state on military orders. However, that is tricky for me. If that new state doesn’t recognize my marriage, I will not be eligible for the BAR reciprocity and will be forced to take another exam. Any attorney will tell you that taking a BAR exam is probably one of their worst nightmares. It is miserable! The stress and pressure that it puts on an individual (your entire career is dependent on this one exam) is immense, so it’s not something you want to do multiple times every couple of years. Further, BAR exams are only offered twice each year – February and July – and you must submit your application for the exam months in advance. Needless to say, the military isn’t great about giving you that much advance notice with a move, so it is one of those things you have to always be prepared and planning for. I was just starting my second year of law school when Nivia joined the Corps (one week after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was officially repealed), so I had no idea what I was facing. I had no idea where she’d end up and where I’d be taking my first BAR. We were lucky though. I went to law school in NC, and she got her first duty station in NC. If there is one thing I would recommend to anyone considering law school, it would be to go to school in the state where you are planning to take your first exam. It will make life much easier for you. Many schools teach federal law in conjunction with the state law where they are located. That will come in handy for BAR time. Learning state laws and then forcing yourself to forget them to relearn another state’s laws is difficult (which is why retaking the BAR in multiple states can be a pain). I know that is unrealistic advice for military families, but if it’s possible, that’s your best option.
What’s next for Jessica?
We are excited to announce that Jessica found out she passed the BAR! It is no small feat to move to a new duty station, endure the worries of a deployment, and study for the BAR exam, but it is true to the makeup of the military spouse community that we can and we do accomplish what we focus on. Because she is stationed at Camp Lejeune, jobs in her field are limited. However, she is making the best of her duty station and will do volunteer work for Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) programs and build her resume. Ultimately, she hopes to represent abused and neglected children as a GAL. She points out that you should not leave big gaps in your resume when the legal job market is as slow as it is, so volunteering is a good alternative to that.
Resources for spouses looking to pursue a career that requires licensing: MSJDN
MSJDN has been an integral part of the reciprocity legislation that MOAA and Joining Forces began working on in 2012. The goal is to encourage states to create legislation that allows ease of transfer for spouses from duty station to duty station. If law is your field of interest, considering joining MSJDN, where membership is free. Additionally, they assist spouses that are lawyers through:
(1) A members-only section of their website that allows people to share state by state bar study materials, job postings, and state-specific practice information;
(2) A robust membership Facebook page where people share employment frustrations and solutions, connect in a way they can’t through military channels, and get to know each other before they ever arrive at a duty station;
(3) And they offer a membership newsletter and blog posts that keep lawyers up to date on efforts to get the laws changed in all 50 states to allow for admission without examination.
Connect with them: