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YLD supports military spouse rule

Associate Editor Regular News

YLD supports military spouse rule

Associate Editor

The Young Lawyers Division voted to support a rule change that would allow the lawyer spouses of U.S. military personnel stationed in Florida to practice in the state.

At a recent meeting, the YLD board unanimously voted to support amendments to Chapter 21 of Bar rules, which will be taken up for a vote by the Bar Board of Governors in December.

Katherine Hurst Miller Although the BOG did not specifically ask the YLD to offer its position on the issue, YLD President Katherine Hurst Miller said the young lawyers wanted to encourage the rule change because “it looked like something that was important to do for families of people serving our country.”

She said the rule would especially help young lawyers because according to information presented by the Military Spouse J.D. Network, statistics from a 2015 survey reveal that 64 percent of attorney military spouses have been practicing for nine years or less, and 46 percent for six years or less.

“So we’re really talking about a big overlap with young lawyers,” Miller explained. “Young lawyers are particularly affected or would benefit from this rule. That’s one reason why I felt it was important for the YLD to weigh in.”

The rule would allow lawyers who are admitted to a bar in another state to practice in Florida during the time their military spouse is stationed in the area. The spouses’ ability to practice terminates when they move out of the state, pass the bar exam and become a regular Florida Bar member, or fail the bar exam or the Florida Board of Bar Examiners’ character and fitness review.

The spouse would have to pass the FBBE character and fitness evaluation, and would be considered a member of The Florida Bar while in the state of Florida.

The Supreme Court would certify a military spouse to practice in Florida while the spouse is located in the state as long as he or she:

• Is registered in the Department of Defense’s “Defense Enrollment Eligibility System,” which identifies them as spouses of full-time active duty military members;

• Holds a J.D. or LL.B. from an ABA accredited law school;

• Is licensed to practice law in another U.S. jurisdiction after passing a written exam;

• Is an active member in another bar in a U.S. jurisdiction;

• Is a member in good standing in every other bar to which the applicant is admitted and is not subject to a discipline or pending disciplinary matter in any of those jurisdictions;

• Has not failed the Florida bar exam or the Florida Board of Bar Examiners character and fitness review within the past five years;

• Is actually living in Florida with the active duty spouse or intends to do so within six months of the application;

• Certifies that he or she has read the Bar’s rules of discipline and professional conduct and agrees to submit to the jurisdiction of the Florida Supreme Court.

These lawyers must also complete the basic skills course required in subchapter 6-12 within six months of being certified and complete 10 hours of CLE each year they practice in Florida.

Lawyers allowed to practice under the rule must pay annual Bar membership fees the same as any active member. The Military Affairs Committee would establish a mentor network for these lawyers, and if they have not practiced within the past three years, must affiliate with a Bar member who can act as a mentor.

YLD Bylaws Committee Chair Adam White, of Pensacola, initially brought this issue to the YLD Board of Governors. He said his hometown contains a large military community, and he has firsthand experience with this issue. A friend’s spouse, he said, expressed concerns about being able to practice law out-of-state when her husband was transferred.

White said, according to a report by the Military Spouse J.D. Network, 18 jurisdictions in the U.S. passed a similar rule, and that Florida’s adoption of the rule would be a good idea.

“I think that the military families in our country sacrifice a great deal for our country,” he asserted. “I think that this rule is one way to alleviate a small portion of that sacrifice.”

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