After the medical field, the legal profession is the most heavily licensed industry in the country, with over 60% of legal practitioners holding some type of license. We also know that reciprocity agreements tend to increase geographic mobility in the legal profession.
Most states allow in-house counsel (a lawyer who works directly for their client, rather than for a law firm or their own practice) to practice regardless of where they were licensed, giving them an advantage over outside counsel in this regard. But their spouses can still suffer from a lack of licensing reciprocity if they aren’t also in-house counsel.
According to an internal survey conducted by the Association of Corporate Counsel, 16% of members moved to a new state between 2016 and 2017, and while it’s common for relocating professionals to be compensated for various moving expenses, there hasn’t traditionally been a program to help spouses find work in a licensed profession.
Gayle Cinquegrani of Bloomberg Law writes about how some firms are attempting to resolve this issue through spousal assistance programs. The program isn’t “widespread,” though the firms that have such policies tend to see positive results.
Of course, there’s only so much these programs can do if states don’t have reciprocity agreements to recognize out-of-state licenses. This issue isn’t unique to highly paid professional spouse; military spouses who work in licensed professions are among the most likely to be affected by a lack of licensing reciprocity, or by anti-competitive licensing practices more generally.