Skip to main content

Successful Military Spouse Conference Held at TJSL

October 20, 2014

By Lilia Rodriguez 2L

On Friday, October 17th, TJSL hosted Military Spouse JD Network’s annual “Making the Right Moves” Conference. MSJDN’s first national event on the west coast, the conference included various panels discussing how military spouse attorneys can overcome the unique barriers they face when growing their career. The conference took place over the course of the entire day and focused on creating and following a successful career path tailored to the unique needs of military spouse attorneys.

Dean Thomas Guernsey delivered the opening remarks, outlining the principles he believes encompass extraordinary leadership; leading by doing, leading by being transparent and honest, leading by allowing extraordinary people to lead and approaching challenges as opportunities. As examples of extraordinary leaders Dean Guernsey recognized TJSL graduate and MSJDN Commutations Director Libby Jamison ‘06 and conference worker 3L Michelle Mance who is also a military spouse.

The first panel included attorney, legal recruiter, and author Barrett Avigdor and employment specialist and career coach with Marine Corps Community Services at Camp Pendleton, Lana Massimini. Both panelists provided invaluable advice regarding the two to three sentences every person should prepare as their opening pitch. Panelists also answered questions and provided guidance about when to disclose to a potential employer their status as a military spouse.  

Director of TJSL’s Center for the Study of Women and the Military, Professor Amy Day headed the second panel, which focused on strategies for building a successful career plan. “Military spouse attorneys face so many huge obstacles, like frequent and unexpected moves, and seemingly insurmountable bar licensing requirements,” Professor Day explained. “But we also have one huge thing going for us: the fact that no matter where in the world we may go, we are likely to find another supportive military spouse attorney ready to lend a hand and offer support and advice.” Professor Day, also a military spouse, encouraged attendees to approach each move to another state or country as an opportunity to re-imagine yourself and your career.

After the morning panels, a luncheon provided attendees with an opportunity to network and connect with one another. “The best part about the event is meeting all of the different spouses and hearing their stories about how they make life work despite the challenges we face as attorneys and spouses connected through the military,” said attendee Stephanie Halford. “What I learned in working with this organization is there are so many different models of how you can use a law degree that I don’t have to feel limited by the traditional law firm partnership track.”

The keynote speakers for the event, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Mayor of Coronado Casey Tanaka both delivered inspirational speeches about their involvement in politics. Gonzalez, who currently represents the 80th district, encouraged anyone with a desire to run for office to embrace the sentiment and become involved. Mayor Tanaka candidly explained the limitations of the governmental process to provide solutions for all problems and emphasized that solutions often emerge when citizens become proactive.

Director of the Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic Professor Steve Berenson, spoke on the Supporting Your Community and Strengthening Your Resume panel along with other community leaders. The panel highlighted how community service can provide military spouse attorneys the opportunity to gain career experience and fill employment gaps.

The final panels discussed practical ways in which military spouses can join the political ranks by volunteering or working with campaigns. Janice Mulligan, who forms part of the California Judicial Nominations Evaluations Committee, explained the application process for judicial candidates. The Hon. William Gallo, U.S. Magistrate Judge, shared how he inadvertently became a judge and the importance of networking for military spouses despite the challenges presented by relocating.

The Conference was well attended throughout the day and provided all attendees with valuable information and an opportunity to join similarly situated military spouses. “Because so many of my students at TJSL have been military spouses, I was especially pleased to see MSJDN choose TJSL as the host site for its 2014 conference,”  said Professor Amy Day, “It was really special to be part of an event for people who understand those dynamics.”

“That was by far the best conference I’ve ever been to,” Michelle Mance (3L) said. “I was so inspired by all of the panelists. They really understood the struggles that military spouses face, especially military spouse attorneys. The panels were entertaining and engaging and I took so much away from each of the panelists. Listening to such successful people has really inspired me as I am about to start my path as a lawyer after yet another PCS (permanent change of station) move post-graduation.”