Nebraska adopts new military spouse attorney licensing rule

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The state of Nebraska recently make it easier for military spouse attorneys to practice law in Nebraska.

The Supreme Court of Nebraska amended its licensing rules to accommodate lawyers married to military members.

Previously, military spouse attorneys had to take the Nebraska bar exam or request admission based on their recent experience as an actively practicing attorney. These licensing barriers, which have historically existed in all 50 states, cause many military families to live apart so that spouses may practice law where they are licensed.

Nebraska State Senator Carol Blood and Leslie Walter, Military Spouse J.D. Network Nebraska state director, were instrumental in getting this key change in the rules passed. Blood represents the 3rd legislative district, which includes Offutt AFB.

“Nebraska is doing well with military-friendly laws,” Blood said.  “I, personally, have been working directly with the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy) on key issues to catch Nebraska up to speed with the priorities they put forth each year.”

With the new standards, attorneys who had to move due to their spouse’s military orders can now be granted a Nebraska law license without retaking the bar or meeting recent active practice requirements.

“This is a win-win situation where military spouse attorneys get additional employment opportunities and the public gets access to military spouse attorneys,” Walter said. "This change reflects yet another step Nebraska has recently taken to reduce or eliminate licensing barriers for military spouses, to include spouses in the medical and educational fields."

Military spouse attorneys must fill out an application to be admitted into the Nebraska Bar, but the standard application fee is reduced and the processing expedited. The license is not temporary, nor does it terminate automatically upon departure from Nebraska.

Walter is a member of the MSJDN, a national association of military spouse attorneys representing the interests of military spouses practicing law while dealing with military moves. Walter is also a member of the United States Air Force Reserve and was previously assigned to Offutt AFB.

In 2012, MSJDN began an effort to pass licensing rules for military spouse attorneys in all 50 states. As part of this effort, MSJDN prepared a Model Rule that removed many of the common licensing barriers faced by military spouses who move frequently, often to remote or overseas locations that make the active practice of law difficult.

“In May of 2017, I started working with the Supreme Court to eliminate the hurdles for military spouse attorneys,” Blood said. “We worked a total of nine months. During the process, the military attorney spouse group got wind of it and came on board.”

The Supreme Court ultimately adopted the MSJDN’s Model Rule in full. The Nebraska labor commissioner, the Nebraska Bar Association’s Military and Veterans Committee, and other local and state leaders, to include State Senator Sue Crawford, also contributed to the adoption of this rule.

On March 14, 2018, Nebraska joined 27 states and one U.S. territory who had already adopted similar rules benefitting military spouse attorneys.

“These types of changes help keep military families happy, together and willing to serve,” Walter said. 

Nebraska has been working on several bills recently to help professional military spouses, such as teachers and health care professionals.

Senator Blood said more changes are expected as well.

“I have always believed that when you support the family, you support the mission,” Blood said.