By Caitlin Emmons
Honor. Courage. Commitment. When University of California, Irvine School of Law graduate Caitlin Emmons’ husband enlisted as a United States Marine, her family put these values above all others.
Military spouses do not attend boot camp, they do not put their lives on the line, and they do not have rank. They serve in a different capacity by placing their dreams on hold, by taking care of the home front, and by holding dear the same values that their spouses pledged their lives to uphold.
From being CEO of the home to being professionals across many industries, military spouses are an incredible powerhouse of strength across our nation. For those military spouses who are in professions requiring specialized licensing, they are faced with a never-ending patchwork of rules to overcome.
For those businesses and organizations that understand this potential, they unlock a determination to serve unlike any other when they recruit military spouses into their communities.
Military spouse and public interest attorney Caitlin Emmons decided to attend law school long before she became a military spouse.
When she married her Marine, she was challenged to deeply reflect on how she could realize her dream of being a loving wife and mother and still play her part in building a more just society as a lawyer. Given her USMC spouse’s military occupational specialty and it being their home of record, Caitlin hedged her bets and took the California Bar after graduating from UCI Law.
The bets did not pay off because afterwards, she and her husband were called to North Carolina. Once she accepted that she would not be a practicing attorney in California for the foreseeable future, she tackled the next major decision to create the strongest way forward.
Taking a bar exam is prohibitively expensive, especially when you are living on a military salary. With two children under two years old, Caitlin placed family first in true military spouse tradition. In Caitlin’s case, she sought alternatives that would keep her connected to the legal community but did not require a law license. While many employers see military spouses as a countdown clock, always a few years away from the next move, Caitlin eventually landed a position as a judicial assistant for the Honorable Charles Henry, who specifically hired military spouses.
Caitlin was incredibly grateful for the position since it was unique, especially for the area they were in.
After three years in North Carolina, Caitlin’s husband received orders back to California and she immediately connected with Veterans Legal Institute (VLI).
Caitlin found herself seeking to extend her family’s service by dedicating her life to public interest law directed at lifting up Veterans in need.
Veterans Legal Institute is a free law firm that is dedicated to low income and at-risk California Veterans. It serves close to 2,000 Veterans each year and during the COVID-19 pandemic, immediately adjusted its service to accommodate Veterans virtually. Further, in line with its mission, Veterans Legal Institute is always seeking to hire Veterans and military spouses.
With a small grant from the Starcare Foundation, Veterans Legal Institute was able to secure Caitlin a part-time position so that she could pursue her passion of serving Veterans.
When asked why she pursues public interest work at Veterans Legal Institute, Caitlin states: “As a military spouse, I have seen firsthand what service can do to a person. I can testify to the pride that service members feel. Working with Veterans, I can also confirm that so many are returning home to restart their lives, forever changed by their military experience. Our nation collectively owes them a debt. Military spouses are uniquely positioned to fill the needs faced by our Veterans because of our military cultural competence. The fight to restore the honor of their service is a righteous one, and it is one I am prepared to continue with honor, courage, and commitment.”
Are you seeking to stand with our Veterans of today and tomorrow? Become a champion for public interest law. Help eradicate barriers to housing, employment, education, and healthcare.
To learn more about Veterans Legal Institute, please visit www.vetslegal.org.