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Seton Hall Law Grads Advancing New Rules in NJ to Support Military Spouses in the Legal Profession


As military spouses themselves – both married to Seton Hall Law alumni who serve in the JAG Corps – Katie Manzi McDonough ’13 (pictured, left) and Jennifer Butch Talley ’10 (pictured, right) appreciate the challenge of fellow attorneys who relocate with their service-member spouses, and then face the burdensome expense and effort to qualify to practice law in a new state. The New Jersey Supreme Court is considering new qualifying rules for military spouse attorneys and McDonough and Talley are organizing support for the change.

Two Seton Hall Law couples share more than an alma mater.

Katie Manzi McDonough ’13, is an associate in private practice in New York City. Her husband, Michael McDonough ’11, serves in the JAG Corps, based in West Point. They live on the Upper West side.

Jennifer Butch Talley ’10 is also an associate in private practice, based in West Orange. Her husband, Justin Talley ’08, also serves in the JAG Corps. He is stationed in Maryland.

After four years, Jennifer and Justin are only now living together.

As Talley wrote in an op-ed piece published on March 17 in the New Jersey Law Journal,

After I graduated from Seton Hall Law School and passed the New Jersey bar examination, I made a very difficult decision: I decided to remain in New Jersey and not to accompany my husband to Fort Drum, N.Y. (approximately 30 miles from the border of Canada). For four years, my husband and I lived apart due to his military orders. This meant seeing each other on the weekends, if one of us could travel, and on holidays when possible. Not only were we geographically apart in the general course, but we faced longer separations due to trainings in Fort Polk, La., and Fort Irwin, Calif., and, ultimately, a deployment to Afghanistan.

The situation the Talleys face is not unusual: service members relocate relatively frequently, taking along their families. With licensing regulated at the state level, the attorney spouses – mostly women – who travel with their service-member partners, suffer economically and professionally. According to the advocacy organization, Military Spouses JD Network (MSJDN.org), many of the members of MSJDN take three to four bar exams, less than one-third have full-time employment, and half of its members are underemployed or working as paralegals.

Talley coached McDonough during her Moot Court competitions and their similar family circumstances helped spark an instant connection between them. Working together, they are taking action to advocate for new rules in New Jersey which would allow qualified military spouse attorneys to practice in the state temporarily, and under specific conditions.

“Michael and I are lucky to work in the same area; we have been the exception to the rule,” said McDonough. “But relocation is a reality for military families. Fellow attorneys who are married to service members should not have to jeopardize their livelihood by living with their spouses, who are ordered to move every two to three years. Rather, it is good policy to allow qualified military spouse attorneys to practice temporarily while in New Jersey due to military orders as long as they are admitted in at least one state and in good standing there.”

Working with MSJDN, McDonough and Talley helped submit a rule proposal to the New Jersey State Supreme Court. The Civil Practice Committee has issued a Report addressing the proposal, and there is now an opportunity for written public comment, to be submitted to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Interested in Supporting the Proposed Rule?

Katie McDonough and Jennifer Talley are coordinating public responses on behalf of the MSJDN for New Jersey. They invite both military spouses to submit testimonials, and members of the Seton Hall Law community to submit letters of support via email. They request materials by March 31. Please send them to Katie McDonough at njmsjdn@gmail.com or to Jennifer Talley at jtalley@trenklawfirm.com.

As Talley concluded in her op-ed,

Caring for active duty service members and their families is something many Americans support, but few understand. In this case, responding to the needs of the relatively few military spouse attorneys who come through New Jersey will give them the opportunity to live with their families while minimizing the inevitable interruptions to their legal careers.

Speaking out for this rule change is a significant way that the New Jersey bar can support the spouses of the men and women who defend our nation. This is not an expansion of reciprocity. Rather, it is a sound public policy choice to assist the few lawyers married to those who serve in the Garden State.

Further Information

Procedural History of Proposed Rule 1:21-11: Temporary Practice in New Jersey as Military Spouse

MSJDN submitted a rule proposal to Chief Justice Rabner to permit, on certain conditions, admission without examination of qualified military spouse attorneys married to active duty Service members stationed in New Jersey.

The Chief Justice specifically requested the Civil Practice Committee review the rule proposal.

A Military Spouse Attorney Bar Admission Subcommittee was formed and concluded that there should be a provision in the Court Rules for the temporary admission of military spouse attorneys to the New Jersey bar. It proposed a rule to the full Civil Practice Committee.

The full committee voted (by a vote of 13 to 10) against the proposed rule, citing the need for more information and recommending specific changes to the Rule as written should the Supreme Court choose to adopt a rule change in support of military spouse attorneys.

Public comment is due by April 11, 2014. MSJDN is responding to the CPC Report with additional information and an updated rule that incorporates the Committee’s changes and addresses its concerns.