Editor’s Note: MSJDN asked its members to help us spotlight employers that are going above and beyond for military spouse attorneys. Each employer in this series was nominated for MSJDN’s Members’ Choice Award for doing just that, by members who told us in their own words about the awesomeness of their employers. MSJDN is thrilled to tell these employer stories as a way of expressing our gratitude for supporting military spouses as they build careers in the legal profession.
The MSJDN Members’ Choice Award recipient will be announced at MSJDN’s Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 6.
Military spouse attorneys often find themselves wearing a lot of different hats – in addition to military spouse and attorney, many are also parents and find themselves juggling the demands of work and family, all while also dealing with their spouse’s military career, including sometimes frequent and/or lengthy absences. It is unquestionably a lot to handle, and finding an employer who is supportive, innovative and understanding can be difficult but quite rewarding. MSJDN member Brandi Culhane found just such an employer in South Walton Law, PA, and she has nominated her the firm for MSJDN’s Members’ Choice Award.
Brandi was first licensed in Texas in 2009, then worked as a law clerk for a federal judge. However, after 2009, Brandi, like many military spouse attorneys, found herself with a multiple year gap in her legal resume due to PCS moves and an overseas tour. She found herself in Florida, studying for the February 2014 Bar Exam, and struggling to find her place in a new legal market. That is when Brandi met Cassie Long, the owner of South Walton Law, PA in Destin, Florida, by networking through some of her military spouse friends. Brandi recalls that: “After hearing my story and understanding my desire to build a practice on a part-time basis that would allow me the flexibility to work around the schedule of my 2 young children, Cassie offered me an Of Counsel position with the firm.”
Brandi recalls that Cassie Long “really took an interest in the plight of military spouse attorneys” and was “eager” to help Brandi find a way to balance her career with her life as a military spouse and mother of two young toddlers. Since connecting with Brandi, Cassie Long and her firm have continued to support military spouse attorneys and military families. Brandi writes: “not long after starting with South Walton Law, I approached Cassie about possibly offering a military discount to clients, and she did not hesitate to say, ‘absolutely.’ She is supportive at every turn and goes out of her way to help me network in the local legal community, always spinning the mil spouse factor in a positive light and educating others in the legal community about the benefits of hiring mil spouses.” Since Brandi has been at the firm, she has been able to advertise an open legal assistant position there to other military spouses, including through MSJDN, and South Walter Law hired a military spouse for the position.
Brandi is thankful that her employer and mentor chose to recognize her strengths and skills as an attorney and a military spouse, rather than questioning her experience or gaps in employment. “When I met Cassie, she looked at my background and rather than saying, ‘well, you don’t have the experience I need,’ she said, ‘you definitely have the skill set to do well, and that’s enough for me.’ I am just so grateful that Cassie was able to look at my experience and the reasons for the gaps in my employment and see that I would still be a very capable and successful attorney if given the opportunity.”
Brandi stresses that Cassie Long has been a great mentor and supporter of military spouses, adding that, “at the time Cassie offered me the Of Counsel position, she was not looking to expand her firm at all. After getting to know me and learning more about my circumstances and the difficulties I had encountered finding work, she decided to give me an unconventional opportunity, and it has worked out really well for both of us.” MSJDN joins member Brandi Culhane in thanking and applauding South Walton Law for their support of military spouse attorneys.
Find out the recipient of the MSJDN Members’ Choice Award at the 2015 Annual Reception in Washington, D.C. on May 6th. Tickets and information available here.