CONTACT: Kathryn Alford, Communications Manager


July 6, 2022

Petition Now Open For Comment

WASHINGTON, DC — Outdated occupational licensing rules are failing women in America. Tennessee has a chance to reform its rules to help part-time lawyers, including moms who choose to work less to care for their children.

Most states provide a way for lawyers who pass the bar exam in one state to be licensed without having to take another bar exam.

Tennessee requires that lawyers be practicing full-time for five of the seven previous years to be admitted without examination. Tennessee is one of only a handful of states with this full-time work requirement. This spring, the Network of enlightened Women, known as NeW, filed a petition with the Tennessee Supreme Court to remove the full-time work requirement. The Tennessee Supreme Court published an order soliciting comments, giving people the opportunity to share their agreement or disagreement with the proposed change. The comment period is open until July 25. The full petition can be found here.

“The difference between a lawyer practicing full-time and part-time is the number of hours she works, not her expertise, experience, or skill. Often the hours gap is small. It is time to think about a women’s agenda that gives women more opportunities to pursue the life they want to live. For many women, that means part-time work. States with a full-time work requirement should review their bar admission rules and remove the full-time work requirement for admittance without examination,” said Karin Lips, President of NeW. “I invite everyone to share their comments with the Tennessee Supreme Court or to sign our petition. We shouldn’t let outdated rules stand in the way of women.”

Many of those affected by this rule are women, who now earn half (or more) of law degrees each year. Of the 6.2 percent of lawyers at law firms working part-time, more than 70 percent are women. Women make up about two-thirds of voluntary part-time workers. In fact, about 1 in 5 working women worked part-time voluntarily in 2016.

NeW is dedicated to promoting policies that improve the lives of women.

To find out more about this issue, visit our website or read Qualified but Barred and Why making it easier to work part time helps women in the workforce, by Karin Lips.

For media interested in talking with Karin Lips about this or learning more about how outdated occupational licensing rules limit opportunities for women, please contact Kathryn Alford, at


The Network of Enlightened Women educates, equips, and empowers women to be principled leaders for a free society.

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