A Navy wife is the first military spouse in Texas to utilize a new licensing rule.
Texas is one of the 39 states and U.S. Virgin Islands to adopt attorney licensing accommodations for spouses of active-duty service members, according to the Military Spouse J.D. Network (MSDJN). Attorney Sopanha Anderson became the state’s first military spouse to utilize Rule.23 for admission to the Bar of Texas when she was sworn in at the Nueces County Courthouse in Corpus Christi last week.
Under this rule, military spouses stationed in the state are eligible for a three-year temporary license to practice law, pending they have met the study requirements and state’s law components.
Married to a Naval aviator for 15 years, Anderson and her husband have four kids and have lived at duty stations in Washington State, Florida, Maryland, Germany and now Texas. In some states, she decided that sitting for the bar wasn’t worth her time due to the financial costs associated with studying and finding childcare. Like many spouses, she found these obstacles excessive, especially since her family was only going to be in one location for three years at most.
“The very nature of a military family’s commitment makes it very difficult, if not prohibitive, to have the continuity of legal practice that would fall under many states’ reciprocity rules,” she said.
Over the years, Anderson has found different ways to remain professionally relevant even when she wasn’t practicing law. She’s gotten creative at each duty station – working as a paralegal on a pro bono case in Washington, serving as a community mediator in Maryland for those in the criminal justice system, and working as guardian ad litem in Florida, ensuring children removed from their homes had an advocate in the court system.
During a tour in Jacksonville, Florida, another spouse connected her with the MSJDN, an organization that works with each state bar’s licensing body to carve these rules for military spouses. Since that time, Anderson has served as a volunteer for the organization.
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“I fell in love with the idea of making a way for military spouses to fully reach their potential professionally,” she said.
When Anderson’s husband received orders to Texas, the first thing she did was look up the state’s rules regarding military spouse licensure. Noticing that the motion was working its way through the state’s legal system, she kept an eye on the proposal’s progress. As soon as Texas Supreme Court adopted Rule.23 early this year, she submitted her application.
“It took a while as I was the first applicant, and they were unfamiliar with the process,” she said.
Anderson is now working as an attorney with Hilliard Martinez Gonzales (HMG) in Corpus Christi.
“I’m so grateful and ecstatic being able to utilize this rule. This company feels like home. From the moment I interviewed, I told them I was a military spouse and they supported me,” she said.
Bob Hilliard, one of the founding partners of HMG, states in a press release that Anderson has been a star from day one.
“To see her journey and her family’s military commitment and the pride she brings to her work is an honor for me and all of HMG,” Hilliard stated.
Anderson’s advice for young spouses in the legal field: don’t give up.
“Connect yourself with people who life you up and will help you reach your full potential. There’s a light at the end of that tunnel. Keep pushing forward. It might not be today, or tomorrow but you will get there,” she said.