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New state court rule aims to help military spouses practice law in Delaware

Delaware Public Media

A state Supreme Court rule adopted late last month will let military spouses apply for a certificate of limited practice in Delaware without taking the state bar exam.


Karen Scanlon is president of the Military Spouse JD Network, which advocates for legal professionals across the country who have spouses in the military. She says without such a rule, state-specific bar exams make it hard for legal professionals who move every few years with their spouses’ military assignments to practice.  

“You have to study for this exam, you don’t just show up with your pencil,” she said. “How long was it between your last bar exam? Are you going to have to take a bar prep class? Lots of financial and time considerations if you’re going to sit the bar exam.”

She says if military spouses know their family will come back to a certain jurisdiction, they will often take the bar exam there.  “We do have members who have up to seven licenses through taking the bar exam,” she said. “Now, for every license you have, that’s yearly fees, yearly [Continuing Legal Education], it’s quite the administration and financial burden.”

Military spouses will only be able to practice under the new rule for up to three years, and under the supervision of another attorney. An applicant must be a licensed attorney in another jurisdiction to qualify.

Scanlon says with the new rule, Delaware joins what is now a majority of states.  “Our organization has advocated successfully in now 38 states and the Virgin Islands to have a military spouse licensing accommodation.”

Scanlon notes Delaware’s rule is one of the more restrictive in the country, and says whether or not the rule actually makes it easier for military spouses to practice law in Delaware will become clear over time. 

The new rule is effective Nov. 1.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.