Access To Justice:
Cincinnati attorney fights for veterans and their families
Each year, Mason, Ohio attorney Max Kinman of Alexander, Webb and Kinman represents hundreds of veterans throughout the United States. During his six-year legal career, Kinman has assisted nearly 500 veterans with diverse backgrounds and experiences. His clientele ranges from 20-year-olds who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom to 85-year-olds who fought in the Vietnam War.
Kinman also serves as co-chair of the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The committee fosters, coordinates and delivers various legal assistance programs for veterans. In the past, they have provided officials with updates to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and supported local veterans’ events. More recently, the committee’s work has focused on the families of veterans and active military members.
Military families are often asked to make sacrifices well beyond those expected of their civilian counterparts. Generally, military families are expected to move every three to five years. With each new move, they must start over adjusting to a new home, neighborhood and school, making new friends, and preparing for new experiences.
For military spouse attorneys, this sacrifice frequently affects work life as well. Kinman explained, “Right now, if a spouse of an active military member is an attorney, and the couple is transferred to Ohio due to military reassignment, the spouse is not automatically sworn in to practice law in the state.” He added, “If they want to practice law in Ohio, they face considerable obstacles because they have to take the bar exam again and incur significant expenses.”
It is often difficult for military spouse attorneys to maintain the connections they have developed, and frequent moves can make it difficult to create a body of work or to engage in a lateral transfer, due to variations in the practice of law around the country.
Having seen these challenges attorney spouses of service members in his every day work, Kinman made it his goal to lighten the load of these professionals. “As a committee, we are trying to push the idea that an attorney in good standing in another state should be allowed to practice in Ohio without having to go through the admittance process again,” Kinman said.
This initiative has slowly gained traction in the past five years. Today, 15 states across the U.S. allow lawyers to practice law without taking another bar exam if their spouses’ military orders have forced a move to another state. Requirements for these allowances vary by state. In Colorado, for example, military spouse attorneys can practice law in the state only if they are admitted to practice in another jurisdiction, meet Colorado’s character and fitness standards, and fulfill various other procedural requirements.
Despite having to meet supplementary requirements, even the smallest of accommodations can make a difference for these attorneys, according to Kinman. “If we can take one setback away from military families, we can make a big difference in their lives,” he said.
Kinman notes that volunteers can help ease the burdens of military families in a variety of ways, and recommends supporting the work of the Ohio Military/Veterans Legal Assistance Project. “If you want to help or simply want to learn something new, OMVLAP is a great way to get involved,” Kinman said.
The OMVLAP offers two programs that need volunteer help, including Operation Legal Help Ohio (OLHO) and Legal Salute Ohio (LSO). OLHP volunteers provide pro bono civil representation to low-income veterans or active service members, while LSO volunteers provide civil presentation for a minimal charge to active-duty service members whose rank is E-6 or lower. Those interested in volunteering can find more information at www.MVLAP.org.