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Military Spouse Fights For The Right To Practice Law

The use of courtroom technology like CourtScribes provides for courtrooms can make the practice of law easier. But practicing law can be difficult for military spouses who frequently have to move from place to place, meaning they are not necessarily licensed to practice law in the state in which they find themselves currently living.

But the Georgia Supreme Court recently overruled the state Board of Examiners’ denial of a military spouse’s request to practice law without having to pass the state bar exam, saying the board denied the request without giving a reason.

“Harriet O’Neal filed a waiver petition with the Board of Bar Examiners on November 30, 2017, asking that she be allowed to practice law in Georgia without sitting for the Georgia bar exam and without meeting the usual requirements for admission without examination. Specifically, O’Neal based her request for a waiver on her status as the spouse of an active member of the military who had been transferred here,” the court said in a unanimous unsigned opinion, per

The opinion continued that O’Neal did not meet the general requirements for admission to the Georgia Bar “on motion without examination, as outlined in the Rules Governing Admission to the Practice of Law, because (1) she passed the bar in Louisiana, which does not offer reciprocity with Georgia or any other state, and (2) she has not been ‘primarily engaged in the active practice of law’ for the preceding five years, as she has only been a lawyer for three years,” the court said.

O’Neal graduated from Louisiana State University Law School in 2014, took and passed the Louisiana bar exam and was admitted to practice in Louisiana in October 2014, but  requested a waiver of the requirements based on the board’s  policy for military spouses.

The court told the board “to clearly apply the military waiver policy and explain why.”

“Given the incredibly high unemployment rate among spouses of active duty service members, we need initiatives such as the military spouse waiver program,” said Linda Klein of Baker Donelson, former president of the American Bar Association. “Military spouse underemployment creates many problems that threaten our national defense.”