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Mission Family: Group helps military spouses practice law

Sep. 13, 2012 - 04:26PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 13, 2012 - 04:26PM  |  
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Attorneys Erin Wirth and Mary Reding haven't tracked the number of hours or the amount of money they've spent doggedly working to make it easier for military spouses like them to work as lawyers.

"At times I felt like I had a full-time job on top of my full-time job," said Wirth, a Washington, D.C., administrative law judge and co-founder of the Military Spouse JD Network.

But she and co-founder Reding are not complaining; they know the challenges facing working military spouses firsthand.

Wirth has moved seven times with her Coast Guard husband since she graduated from law school. Reding is a freelance attorney in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband, a fighter pilot, left the Air Force two years ago after a 12-year career, partly because of the constant moves and her professional difficulties.

He's now full-time Air National Guard, so Reding won't have to move anymore. Wirth and Reding have made a difference to hundreds of military spouses who are attorneys. More than 500 have become members of the group in the past year, with more joining every week.

Reding and Wirth have worked with the military community and the American Bar Association, and have spoken to more than 50 state and local bar association groups in their efforts to make it easier for attorneys who are military spouses to practice law.

In February, the ABA voted to support a resolution encouraging state licensing agencies to allow spouses who are lawyers and in good standing in another jurisdiction to practice law in the state where they are living because of military orders.

In July, the Conference of Chief Justices approved a similar resolution, after a presentation by the ABA and Reding.

But their work is not done; individual states will decide how flexible they will be.

Ken Goldsmith, legislative counsel and director for state legislation for the ABA, said a key to the success of Reding and Wirth besides their persistence is their approach to their mission.

"They approach it with determination, but with professionalism, and a certain humility. They asked for help in understanding how to accomplish the mission," he said.

Reding said the military and legal communities have been very supportive of their efforts.

"The [legal] profession gets it now," she said. "Once you tell them your individual circumstances, they understand."

The two now want to expand their organization's mission, to help military families using the legal expertise of their members.

"We've realized the incredible untapped resource we have and the difference we could make for other military families," Wirth said.

kjowers@militarytimes.com?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Karen Jowers is the wife of a military retiree.

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