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By Sarah Cable

MSJDN members are well aware of the challenges associated with continuing their legal careers while accompanying their service-member spouses from state to state and across the world.  One of the biggest hurdles they face is the process of becoming licensed in a new state, which often requires studying for another bar exam and completing a lengthy and expensive application, only to move again in a few years.  That is why MSJDN members are so appreciative when state bars adopt membership rules tailored to military spouse attorneys.  These accommodations enable military spouse attorneys, such as MSJDN member Evelyn Guevara, to hit the ground running in a new state to further their legal careers and enrich the state bar with their unique talents and skills.

Evelyn’s husband is currently serving in the United States Air Force JAG Corps.  Together they have been stationed in Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, DC, Colorado, and Italy.  After getting married in 2007, Evelyn, a New York barred attorney, moved to Arizona to join her husband at his first duty station.  Even though she was only going to be in Arizona for two years, Evelyn studied for and passed the Arizona bar exam while completing a federal judicial clerkship.  Upon completion of the clerkship, Evelyn worked in private practice for her remaining year in Arizona.

When her husband received orders to New Mexico for what was anticipated to be another two-year assignment, Evelyn decided against studying for a third bar exam and instead chose to pursue other opportunities and start a family.  The New Mexico assignment ended up lasting four years, during which time Evelyn worked as a paralegal and had two children.  Next the family was off to Washington, DC, for a ten-month assignment.  Although Evelyn was ready and excited to work, the short nature of her husband’s tour did not provide sufficient time to fully connect with the legal community and find employment.  Instead, Evelyn focused on raising her children and got involved in MSJDN and other volunteer and pro bono opportunities.

In July 2014, Evelyn’s family moved to Colorado Springs on orders for a two-year assignment.  At the time, a military spouse rule change (requested by MSJDN) was under review by the Colorado bar, and the rule was adopted shortly thereafter, just in time for Evelyn’s arrival.  The Colorado rule became effective on September 1, 2014, and Evelyn immediately applied for membership.  Evelyn remembers that Colorado’s application process could not have been easier.  She simply completed an abbreviated application, paid a fee, and submitted letters of good standing from the New York and Arizona bars.  Just a short time later, on September 25, 2014, Evelyn was admitted to the Colorado Bar.

The Colorado Bar’s military spouse rule granted Evelyn full, active membership in the state bar, with all of the associated privileges and responsibilities, during her time in Colorado.  Evelyn was obligated to satisfy continuing legal education requirements and pay the annual fee for active membership.  In return, she was able to seek employment in the local legal community as an active member of the bar, without restriction.  Upon leaving Colorado for her husband’s next assignment, Evelyn simply needed to notify the bar of her move, and her membership would be terminated.

Evelyn’s Colorado bar membership opened up a window of employment opportunities, and she began her job search in earnest.  Through an MSJDN connection, Evelyn ended up accepting an attorney position with the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at nearby Fort Carson, which ironically did not require a Colorado bar license.  Nevertheless, Evelyn is appreciative of Colorado’s support of military spouse attorneys and the ease with which she was able to obtain and maintain her Colorado license during her husband’s assignment.  Evelyn recalls the Colorado bar being very welcoming of military spouses utilizing the new licensing accommodation.  For Evelyn, her Colorado membership “legitimized [her] in a community where she had never lived or practiced.”  Such legitimacy is crucial in tight-knit legal communities, and it can often be a significant barrier for military spouse attorneys.  Colorado removed that barrier for Evelyn and for all other military spouse attorneys, and MSJDN is thankful for the bar’s support.

Learn more about MSJDN’s state licensing initiative here.

The post Military Spouse Attorney Rule Change Success Story: Evelyn Guevara and the Colorado Bar appeared first on Military Spouse JD Network.

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Summary of 2017 MSJDN Annual Survey Results

by Sanya Sarich Kerksiek

The Military Spouse JD Network has released the results of its fifth annual survey on military spouse attorney demographics and careers. MSJDN developed the survey to help assess MSJDN impact and to inform planning of MSJDN initiatives, which focus on empowering military spouses through advocacy, professional networking, and job opportunities.

The survey ran from December 4, 2017 until January 8, 2018. It was advertised via email and social media and was open to all military spouse attorneys regardless of MSJDN membership. Three hundred and fifty (350) individuals responded.

Demographics

Approximately 95% of military spouse attorneys are women and 5% are men. Those numbers are consistent with other demographics reports on military spouses. For instance, the 2015 Department of Defense Demographics Report showed 92% of active duty spouses are female and a 2013 report commissioned by the Military Officers Association of America showed 90% of military spouses are female.

Active duty families make up the largest percentage of military spouse attorneys at nearly 85%. In addition, four percent of military spouse attorneys are currently serving in the military, and 13% are veterans.

Military spouse attorneys represent all branches of service. The largest percentage of military spouse attorneys are affiliated with the Army at 39%. Approximately 23% are affiliated with the Navy, 23% with the Air Force, 11% with the Marines, and 3% with the Coast Guard.

While the ranks of military spouse attorney partners vary widely, most (80%) are married to mid-level officers. About 19% are married to enlisted service members and 1% are married to warrant officers.

Approximately 64% of military spouse attorneys have children. Of those, the majority (76%) have one or two children, and most of those children are under six years of age.

Permanent changes of duty station (“PCS moves”) are a frequent occurrence for military families and can happen, on average, every two to three years. Nearly half of military spouse attorneys indicate they have experienced three or more PCS moves. Approximately 40% of respondents indicated only one move during the course of their careers. Some indicated they have experienced more than 10 PCS moves. Not all military spouse attorneys move with their servicemember; approximately half, at one point in their marriage, lived apart from their servicemembers in order to maintain their legal careers.

Military Spouse Attorneys as Professionals

Military spouse attorneys are of all levels of experience, ranging from under 3 years to over ten years. While 87% of military spouse attorneys have a license to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, only about 74% of those working report having employment in a job requiring a law license. Military spouse attorneys practice in a wide range of legal fields and work in a variety of professional settings. Most work in private practice and in government. As a community, military spouses tend to perform significant hours of volunteer work (not including pro bono legal work). Approximately 46% of military spouse attorneys report they volunteer in their communities.

Common Challenges

Military spouse attorneys face unique challenges to their careers as a result of their spouses’ military service. Almost 90% of military spouse attorneys report that their spouses’ service has impacted the progress of their careers. The 2017 survey responses, as well as responses from past years, indicate that military affiliation is frequently a reason employers choose not to hire military spouse attorneys

Due to PCS moves, licensure in multiple jurisdictions is a reality for many military spouse attorneys, including the associated time and money spent on obtaining and maintaining bar memberships. About one third of survey participants have taken bar exams in two or more states. Almost 30% reported paying more than $500 a year in annual mandatory bar dues, and 43% reported paying between $250 and $500 in bar dues.

Fortunately, about 19% of respondents have been admitted to a new jurisdiction without having to take an additional bar exam. One of MSJDN’s primary initiatives is to advocate for change to state licensing rules so that military spouse attorneys already admitted and in good standing in one jurisdiction may waive in to a state’s bar without examination for the period they reside in the state due to a servicemember’s orders. To date, 29 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have passed a licensing accommodation for military spouses, and efforts are underway in 14 additional states.

Another side effect of PCS moves is that it is difficult to maintain employment with one employer for an extended period of time unless the employer is willing to permit a military spouse attorney to work remotely. In 2013, only 33% of respondents reported that an employer has provided them with an opportunity to work remotely. In 2017, 45% of the survey participants responded that an employer has provided them with an opportunity to work remotely.

MSJDN’s Mission

An executive summary of the 2017 survey results, including easy-to-read graphs, is available here. The demographic data underscore the importance of MSJDN’s mission. Like many in the military community, military spouse attorneys crave connection with others who struggle with similar issues. MSJDN–currently at 700 members strong–provides vital support to the military spouse attorney community through its networking and professional development events, its active members’ Facebook group, and its state licensing efforts.

The post MSJDN Releases 5th Annual Report on Military Spouse Attorneys appeared first on Military Spouse JD Network.

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Editor’s Note: MSJDN asked its members to help us spotlight employers that are going above and beyond for military spouse attorneys. Each employer in this series was nominated for MSJDN’s Members’ Choice Award for doing just that, by members who told us in their own words about the awesomeness of their employers. MSJDN is thrilled to tell these employer stories as a way of expressing our gratitude for supporting military spouses as they build careers in the legal profession.

The MSJDN Members’ Choice Award recipient will be announced at MSJDN’s Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 17.

Aiken Schenk is a Phoenix-based law firm offering a broad range of legal services, including employment law, healthcare law, commercial litigation and business disputes, personal injury, and bankruptcy law, among others.  The firm was formed 28 years ago and now has 14 attorneys.  Aiken Schenk is nationally recognized and prides itself on its active engagement in the Arizona legal community.

MSJDN member Natalie Virden nominated the firm for the 2018 MSJDN Members’ Choice Award because the firm has gone above and beyond to support her decision to move to be near her service member.

Ms. Virden practices labor and employment law at Aiken Schenk.  She had been working at the firm for approximately 18 months when she decided to move to be with her service member.  The firm took a chance and Ms. Virden (and on technology!) and kept her on board full-time.

Ms. Virden commented that keeping her on board could be seen as a huge risk for the firm because it is relatively small.  Additionally, Phoenix is not a military hub, and there were no military connections between service members or military spouses and the firm as far as Ms. Virden knew.  However, the firm agreed to her move, set her up with a home office, and supported her every step of the way.  Ms. Virden never imagined that the firm would be willing to do all they have done to support her, and is thrilled to be able to continue her career at Aiken Schenk.

It is firms like Aiken Schenk that give military spouse lawyers hope that they can have it all – work full time at their job of choice and be a military spouse.  MSJDN is pleased to recognize the well-deserved nomination of Aiken Schenk for the 2018 Members’ Choice Award!

Celebrate the recipient of the MSJDN Members’ Choice Award at the 2018 Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 17th. Tickets and information available here.

The post Employer Spotlight: Aiken Schenk appeared first on Military Spouse JD Network.

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Editor’s Note: MSJDN asked its members to help us spotlight employers that are going above and beyond for military spouse attorneys. Each employer in this series was nominated for MSJDN’s Members’ Choice Award for doing just that, by members who told us in their own words about the awesomeness of their employers. MSJDN is thrilled to tell these employer stories as a way of expressing our gratitude for supporting military spouses as they build careers in the legal profession.

The MSJDN Members’ Choice Award recipient will be announced at MSJDN’s Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 17.

By Mariya Volzhskaya

Littler Medelson P.C. is a national law firm specializing in Labor and Employment Law and serving clients around the world and through over 55 U.S. offices. Law firms of this size often do not have reputations for being flexible and supportive of alternative arrangements for attorney employment. However, MSJDN member Stephanie Halford has enjoyed being a member of Littler’s innovative CaseSmart team – a  nationally based program for flex time attorneys who specialize in litigation and work 100% from home with the full tech and resource support of this global firm.

This kind of support and flexibility is especially crucial for military spouse attorneys, with uncertain long-term locations and sudden PCS moves. Through the CaseSmart program, Littler provides an opportunity for experienced employment attorneys to maintain a fulfilling and exciting litigation career without the insane hours and location inflexibility typically seen in traditional “brick and mortar” firms. Stephanie says “Littler will support me in this program if we receive orders anywhere in the US. I just have to update my address and tax information.”  For many military spouse attorneys, that is an ideal arrangement.  Stephanie shared that she is currently aware of two other military spouses in the program, as well as one who recently departed for another job. Littler also employs other military spouse attorneys outside the CaseSmart program, including one spouse in the Knowledge Management Group.

Littler also shows its commitment to military spouses through regularly posting openings on the MSJDN job board.  In her nomination, Stephanie also stressed that in addition to military spouses, Littler also prides itself on supporting its attorney employees who are serving in the reserves.

Military spouse attorneys, as well as their families, are grateful for employers like Littler Mendelson that provide meaningful opportunities for career maintenance and development. MSJDN is pleased to recognize the well-deserved nomination of Littler Mendelson for the 2018 Members’ Choice Award!

Celebrate the recipient of the MSJDN Members’ Choice Award at the 2018 Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 17th. Tickets and information available here.

The post Employer Spotlight: Littler Mendelson P.C. appeared first on Military Spouse JD Network.

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Editor’s Note: MSJDN asked its members to help us spotlight employers that are going above and beyond for military spouse attorneys. Each employer in this series was nominated for MSJDN’s Members’ Choice Award for doing just that, by members who told us in their own words about the awesomeness of their employers. MSJDN is thrilled to tell these employer stories as a way of expressing our gratitude for supporting military spouses as they build careers in the legal profession.

The MSJDN Members’ Choice Award recipient will be announced at MSJDN’s Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 17.

By Tricia Petek

Hadley Law, PLC is a small boutique firm with an all-female staff located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Military Spouse JD Network member Sarah Buitrago nominated the firm for the 2018 MSJDN Members’ Choice Award based upon her experience working at Hadley for the past year. Sarah describes an encouraging and flexible work environment that employs both military spouses and military veterans, while also assisting the military population of Virginia Beach with legal matters.

Although Managing Attorney Cherish L. Hadley-Njewel is not affiliated with the military, the firm has established a strong record of serving the military community. In addition to Sarah, the firm employs a military veteran and a military spouse. Another MSJDN member was recently hired for an intern position, and found out about the position through MSJDN, where the firm advertises its open positions before advertising to the general public.

During her interview Sarah shared her military spouse status and the gap in her resume after graduating from law school. These factors did not deter the firm from hiring Sarah; in fact, Ms. Hadley-Njewel welcomed Sarah to shadow her as she became familiar with her new position. Sarah has also been encouraged to learn new areas of the law, such as Veterans’ Benefits, which will enable to expand her practice to continue helping members of the military community.

Hadley Law has also been an extremely flexible working environment for military families that often face unpredictable schedules and long periods of separation from loved ones. Sarah has found that the law firm is supportive of employees taking time from work to spend with family and of working hours that are compatible for military families. These characteristics of the firm help explain why Sarah has found such a welcoming work environment and why she enthusiastically nominated her employer for the 2018 MSJDN Members’ Choice Award. Hadley Law, PLC is an excellent example of how businesses can hire, empower, and elevate the careers of military spouses.

Celebrate the recipient of the MSJDN Members’ Choice Award at the 2018 Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 17th. Tickets and information available here.

The post Employer Spotlight: Hadley Law, PLC appeared first on Military Spouse JD Network.

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The Military Spouse JD Network is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to supporting military families in the legal profession. An active Board of Directors oversees all of MSJDN’s programs and engagements that are then put into action by our committee leadership. Our Board and Committee volunteers work hard to keep the organization moving forward, meeting the needs of our members, and improving the lives of military families.  MSJDN is very pleased to introduce our new leadership for the 2018-2019 year, and all are welcome to meet the new board at the 2018 MSJDN Annual Reception on May 17, 2018 at 6pm in Washington D.C.!

President: Katherine Lee Goyette

Katherine Lee Goyette is an Associate Attorney at Fendley & Etson in Clarksville, Tennessee, practicing in the areas of criminal defense, family law, estates & trusts, and personal injury. Formerly, she prosecuted in southern Colorado as a Deputy District Attorney under a military spouse law license. Prior to that, Katherine worked as a legislative attorney for the Kansas Legislature for five years. Katherine has served as co-chair of the Diversity Committee of the Kansas Bar Association and is actively involved with MSJDN, having previously served on the board as Treasurer and helping with rule change efforts in Kansas, West Virginia, and New Mexico. In 2016, Katherine was awarded the A Community Organization for Victim Assistance Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Service on Behalf of Crime Victims and also named as the AFI Military Spouse of the Year Fort Carson.  She married an Army field artilleryman, and is licensed in Kansas, D.C., SCOTUS, formerly Colorado, and currently has a military spouse law licensure application before the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners.

Immediate Past President: Libby Jamison

Libby Jamison has been an active member of MSJDN since 2012, including two years on the Board as Communications Director from 2013-2015. Libby works with the Department of Veterans Affairs as counsel at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. In 2014, she was recognized by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid for Outstanding Pro Bono service and by the Jacksonville Junior League with their Community Service award; in 2015, she was named as the AFI Military Spouse of the Year for Naval Station Newport. Recently, she was appointed to the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel and the San Diego County Bar Association’s Servicemembers Civil Relief Act committee. She is married to a Navy helicopter pilot; his career has taken them to California, Florida, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Libby is admitted to practice in California, Washington State, and before the Supreme Court of the United States.

President Elect: Karen Scanlan

Karen is an attorney licensed in Illinois and is a native of Chicago.  She is married to a (retired) Army Simulations Officer. Before becoming an Army wife, Karen practiced law with several small firms in and around Chicago.  Karen has been involved with MSJDN since 2011 and is committed to its mission of improving the lives of military spouses in the legal profession. Most recently, Karen has served as the Co-State Director for Florida for MSJDN’s State Licensing Committee, overseeing the efforts to enact a military spouse attorney licensing rule in the Sunshine State.  Most recently, Karen served as the State Licensing Director for the MSJDN Board, managing the MSJDN licensing initiative nationwide.  She is also past board member with the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations, serving as Co-Chair of the Awards Committee (2017-2018).  Karen and her husband cheer on the Chicago Cubs from their Miami home with their four sons.

Governance Director/Secretary: Brooke Geiger Nattkemper

Brooke is an attorney currently licensed in Florida, with a license pending in Kansas thanks to the recent rule changes in the Sunflower State.  She was sworn into the United States Supreme Court in October 2017.  Brooke was involved with the rule change efforts in Kansas early on, and it was during that time that she developed a deeper desire to serve MSJDN and the attorneys and families it impacts as much as she could.  She has been a member of the Communications and Finance Committees for MSJDN.  Brooke also volunteers as an advisor for the local Kappa Delta chapter at Kansas State University.  She is married to an Army infantryman and has a toddler daughter, making the balancing act of military spouse life an interesting task at times.   Brooke has a background in litigation, immigration, and dependency, but is excitedly expanding her knowledge base to include estate planning, commercial transactions, and property law. Brooke is a graduate of the University of North Florida and Stetson University College of Law.

Treasurer: Kelley Scrocca

Colleen “Kelley” is licensed to practice in 6 states (and took the bar in ALL of them).  She graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School and then went on to get her LLM in Estate Planning from the University of Miami.  She started practicing law for a boutique firm in Philadelphia where she specialized in small estates and estate administration. She then moved to a big firm in Wilmington, Delaware, where she worked with high net-worth clients, provided document drafting and review to large banks and trust companies specifically to take advantage of Delaware’s favorable trust laws, and worked on a myriad of other estate and tax related projects. A few years later she met her military husband.  She quit her law job and moved with him to Korea.  Since then she has moved 5 times, travelled to 16 countries, and had 3 kids.  Currently, she is living at Ft. Bragg preparing for a new assignment in Germany.  Kelley is active in community chorus and loves hiking, geocaching, and reading.

Treasurer Elect: Kirsten Jones

Kristen Jones is a graduate of Dartmouth College and George Mason University Law School. She has practiced as an Associate Attorney with the Moller Law Group in Woodland Park, Colorado, as well as Field Counsel for the Law Offices of Skrabo & Atkins in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Formerly, she’s served as a Assistant Attorney General for the Wyoming Office of the Attorney General and as a Judicial Law Clerk for Fairfax Circuit Court, Virginia. In the summer of 2018, she is moving with her Airman, two sons, and dog from Charlottesville to Dayton and thanking her lucky MSJDN stars for Ohio’s new licensing rule.

Communications Director: Maria Campbell

Maria is a litigation attorney for Bone McAllester Norton PLLC in Nashville, Tennessee. She strives to do good work for her clients and the community. This California native received her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California and her juris doctor from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. She previously worked for the firms DLA Piper and Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo. Maria left her Southern California roots for the first time last year to follow her husband who is a captain in the Army and a West Point graduate. They are currently stationed at Ft. Campbell and live in Clarksville, TN. Maria was one of the first to take advantage of Tennessee’s Military Spouse Licensing Law, enacted in early 2016, which grants a Tennessee law license to military spouses who are licensed in another state.

Community and Events Director: Allison Chersicla

Allison Chersicla is passionate about using her law degree in the public service.  She started her legal career on active duty in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps at Fort Benning, Georgia and Fort Bliss, Texas.  She served in various roles including: administrative law attorney, special assistant US attorney, chief of legal client services, claims attorney and field screening officer.  Allison hails from New York and is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School and Fordham University, where she met her husband, an active duty Army Infantry officer.  She is honored to serve her fellow military spouse attorneys as MSJDN’s Community and Events Director and looks forward to fostering community amongst the members and building on the tremendous foundation that MSJDN has established.

Homefront to Hired Director: Alex Spisak

Alex is an attorney at a large DC law firm where his practice involves mass complex tort litigation with a focus on product liability. He works with a team of attorneys serving as national counsel for a fortune 100 company in the defense of its nationwide litigation docket. Alex maintains an active pro bono practice, representing clients seeking asylum in the United States and volunteering at the Washington DC Landlord-Tenant Resource Center.

Membership Director: Dawn Gile

Dawn Gile has been a member of MSJDN since 2012 and has served on the Justice for Military Families committee, the pro bono initiative of the Military Spouse JD Foundation. She has been in private practice for approximately ten years and is presently an attorney with MacDonald Law Group, LLC, where her practice focuses on complex civil litigation, toxic torts, and insurance defense. She is the proud spouse of an Army soldier, with whom she has two girls. Originally from Illinois, she and her family now reside in Maryland. Dawn also volunteers her time by serving as a director on the Rockford University alumni association board. In the past, she has also served as the leader of her husband’s unit’s family readiness group. Dawn is admitted to practice law in Illinois, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

Pro Bono Director: Tricia Petek

Tricia Petek is a native of Montana and a graduate of the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana. She began volunteering with MSJDN and Justice for Military Families in June 2015 as an Intake Coordinator, and became the program’s Lead Intake Coordinator in March 2016. Tricia is licensed in Kansas, Missouri, and Montana, and previously practiced Family Law in Kansas and Missouri. Tricia’s spouse is an Air Force officer and they have two young children. Her family is currently stationed in Germany, where Tricia also volunteers with a spouses’ organization and the parent-teacher association at her son’s school.

State Licensing Director: Karl Gerner

Karl is an attorney licensed in the District of Columbia, originally from Saratoga, New York.  His practice focuses on privacy and telecommunications, with a background in commercial litigation.  He is married to a Submarine Officer stationed in Washington, D.C.  Karl has been involved with MSJDN since 2015 and is committed to educating the legal profession about the unique and desirable skills military spouse attorneys possess.  Most recently, Karl served as the State Director for Utah for MSJDN’s State Licensing Committee, overseeing the efforts to enact a military spouse attorney licensing rule in the Beehive State.  He is also a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals and the Federal Communications Bar Association.

At-Large: Leslie Walter

Leslie Walter is a Texas-licensed attorney who advised in the area of Homeland Security compliance before spending more than four years in the Air Force JAG Corps. She currently works as a civilian Senior Program Manager for the Air Force while continuing her JAG commitment in the Air Force Reserve. Her husband, Bryan, is an Air Force instructor pilot at Pensacola Naval Air Station. They have one daughter, Cora.

_____________________

MSJDN proudly welcomes this new Board of Directors to lead our many efforts into the next year. If you are a member interested in volunteering, please visit the committees page for more information and then reach out to the committee leader to get started. Our successes are only possible thanks to volunteer power!

The post New MSJDN Leadership Announced for 2018-2019 appeared first on Military Spouse JD Network.

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MSJDN is excited to announce that the 2018 Professional Excellence Award will be presented to military spouse attorney Cheryl Mason at the Annual Reception on May 17th.

Cheryl, known to her colleagues as Cheri, is an experienced attorney and leader, the spouse of an Air Force veteran, the daughter of a World War II Navy veteran, and as of 2017, the Senate-confirmed Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Cheri has met the challenges faced by military spouse attorneys, excelled at every level of the profession, and now leads approximately 1,000 employees and the administrative tribunal that adjudicates veterans’ benefits. She is the first woman to serve as the BVA Chairman, and the first military spouse as well.

Cheri previously served as the Principal Deputy Vice Chairman at BVA. She started her career at BVA in 1990, while her husband was still on active duty. After working there for four years, her husband received orders to report to Germany. Like so many military spouses who came before and after her, she put her professional career on hold and moved her family overseas. Wanting to work, but unable to find employment as an attorney, she accepted a position as an office manager. Upon returning to the U.S. several years later, Cheri was able to return to work at BVA, building an exemplary career serving veterans and their families, aided by her own experiences as a military spouse.

At BVA, Cheri worked her way up from Counsel, to Judge, to Chief Judge,to Principal Deputy Vice Chairman. As she rose up through the ranks, she built bridges with VSOs and MSOs, collaborating with a broad base of stakeholders on efforts to modernize and streamline the appeals process. While Cheri has a long career at BVA, her service as a mobile military spouse means she has a variety of experiences that makes her well-rounded. Her career began in private practice in Omaha, Nebraska.  She later served as an attorney ensuring the Americans with Disabilities Act was implemented and followed. She also served at the Federal Labor Relations Authority.  As her career path demonstrates, she is deeply passionate about serving veterans and those facing challenges in their lives.

At the 2016 annual MSJDN professional development conference, Cheri shared her career journey with fellow military spouse attorneys in attendance. She highlighted that although she accepted a position as an office manager while in Germany that was several steps down on the pay scale, she was later able to emphasize the management and organizational skills used in that position to enhance her resume as she pursued leadership roles in the workplace.

MSJDN was thrilled to recognize BVA at the 2017 Annual Reception as a nominee for the Member’s Choice Award.  With Cheri showcasing the stellar capabilities of military spouse attorneys, BVA has hired numerous military spouses over the years, and continues to do so in both attorney and non-attorney roles.  Cheri champions remote work policies allowing BVA attorneys to move with a spouse who receives PCS orders outside of the National Capital Region, while still maintaining a meaningful legal career.  The teleworking and remote work opportunities, available to all attorneys at the Board, are particularly appealing to attorneys married to service members, often faced with starting over again with each PCS.

Cheri has overcome tremendous challenges, including ups and downs on the career ladder and tours overseas, to reach this professional pinnacle; her success gives career-minded military spouses hope. Hope that being married to a servicemember does not mean the end to our careers. Hope that military families can balance a two-career household and a life of service. Hope that the sacrifices being made by military families are not going unnoticed.

Cheri’s professional successes shows that military spouses are intelligent, capable leaders with valuable skills in the workplace.  MSJDN is honored to include her in our ranks and it is with great pleasure that we recognize the path she has blazed for military spouse attorneys with the 2018 Professional Excellence Award.

Please join us on May 17th for the presentation and a celebration of all military spouses in the legal profession. Tickets and more information are available on the event page.

The post Cheryl Mason to Receive 2018 MSJDN Professional Excellence Award appeared first on Military Spouse JD Network.

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