The area of law known as family law deals with issues pertaining to family ties, such as adoption, child custody, divorce, and marriage. Family lawyers work with clients to navigate the often complex and emotional legal landscape of family law matters. In some cases, family lawyers may make court appearances to represent their clients, but they may also provide advice and guidance outside of the courtroom setting.
If you’re seeking a career in family law, it’s important to find the field that is right for you. There are many different types of family law jobs, so your options are far from limited. This article will discuss some of the most common career paths an aspiring family lawyer can take, and shed light on what it takes to become a family lawyer.
The Role of a Family Lawyer
Few legal matters are as emotionally charged as those involving family law. This area of the law deals with issues like divorce, child custody, and adoption. Given the personal nature of these issues, it is not surprising that family law can be complex and contentious. As a result, family lawyers must be skilled in both mediation and litigation.
So, what does a family lawyer do? In many cases, a family lawyer will work to negotiate an agreement between the parties involved. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the lawyer may need to take the case to court. Whether working to find a resolution through family law litigation or negotiation, a good lawyer strives to protect the rights and interests of their client.
To be more precise, the duties of family lawyers include:
Meeting with clients
Gathering information and evidence
Researching applicable law
Drafting necessary legal documents
Making timely court appearances
Arguing cases in court
Advising clients on legal options
You should keep in mind that only those lawyers who have passed the bar exam can represent their clients in court. Such lawyers are also referred to as attorneys.
Types of Family Lawyer Jobs
There are many different types of family lawyers, each with their own area of expertise. For example, some family lawyers specialize in divorce, while others may focus on custody or adoption. Let’s take a look at some of the most common practice areas for family lawyers.
Marriage and Civil Union
Matrimonial lawyers can provide assistance to couples before and during their marriage. For example, they help in the formation and explanation of prenuptial agreements before the couple gets married. A couple may want to modify their prenup during their marriage, or create a new one, which is also where a matrimonial lawyer steps in.
Some family lawyers work primarily with clients who are going through a divorce. A lawyer specializing in this area will help their client navigate the often complicated process of marriage dissolution, which can involve issues like property division. They can also represent their clients in court, if necessary.
Paternity and Child Custody
Child custody lawyers represent parents who are seeking custody of their children or are involved in a custody dispute. In many cases, child custody lawyers also handle visitation rights and child support issues.
Adoption lawyers help families navigate the intricate legal process of adoption. This family lawyer’s job is to help facilitate the adoption process and ensure all legal requirements are met. It may also involve providing support and guidance to adoptive families and representing adoptive parents in court if there is a dispute over the adoption.
Lawyers who specialize in domestic violence provide representation to clients involved in child abuse cases, victims of domestic violence, and those accused of it. Thus, they prepare clients for trials, help them defend themselves from accusations, obtain restraining orders, or ensure other forms of protection are in place.
A guardian is a person who is legally responsible for another person, referred to as a ward. For someone to become a ward, they must be a minor or an adult unable to take care of themselves, due to dementia or other reasons.
Guardianship can be temporary or permanent, and it can be granted for personal and financial matters. A guardianship lawyer can help navigate the legal process of someone becoming a guardian or a ward. They also handle disputes over the guardianship arrangement.
How To Land a Family Lawyer Job
Before you set your job alert to notify you of openings in family law attorney jobs, you should get adequate education. In this section, we’ll explain all the educational requirements for family lawyers. We’ll also touch on what your resume should look like and what questions you can expect during the job interview.
To start a career in family law, you’re required to complete a minimum of seven years of education. First, the aspiring family attorney needs to complete four years of undergraduate studies and then three years of law school to acquire a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Let’s take a look at all of the steps you need to take in order to obtain the education necessary for becoming a family lawyer and a licensed attorney.
Step 1: Choose a Major for Your Undergraduate Degree
When it comes to obtaining an undergraduate degree, future family lawyers can choose virtually any major. While it’s a good idea to go for one that can prepare you for your career as a family lawyer, you should also choose something you’re interested in.
No matter what undergraduate degree program you choose, make sure that you enroll in classes that will challenge you academically and provide you with the skills necessary for success in law school. Some of these skills include critical thinking, analysis, legal research, communication, and writing. Some of the majors that are beneficial for aspiring family lawyers include sociology, psychology, history, or English.
Step 2: Pass the LSAT
Once you have completed your undergraduate studies, the next step to becoming a practicing family lawyer is to apply to law school. To be admitted, you must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This standardized test evaluates a student’s abilities in reading comprehension, writing, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning.
Your score on the LSAT will play a significant role in determining which law school you get into.
Location can be a salient factor for those seeking careers in family law because you’ll be building a network of valuable connections in the area where you choose to study. Although it’s absolutely possible to finish law school in one state and practice in another, this is something to take into account.
Even more importantly, you should consider the courses that are taught in the particular law school and whether they will prepare you for the field you would like to practice law in. Some law schools are more focused on theory, while others provide plenty of practice, so you should keep that in mind, as well.
Optional: Pass the Bar Exam
If you plan on becoming a family law attorney so that you can serve clients by representing them in court, you need to pass the bar exam after finishing law school. The bar exam is very comprehensive and consists of three components: Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), and Multistate Performance Test (MPT).
The MBE consists of 200 multiple choice questions. The purpose of this part of the exam is to test the applicants’ knowledge of the following seven aspects of law:
Contracts and sales
Criminal law and procedure
On the other hand, MEE contains essay questions. The topics include those covered by the MBE and five additional subjects:
Conflict of laws
Trusts and estates
Uniform commercial code
Finally, while the first two parts are meant to test the candidates’ theoretical knowledge, MPT focuses on law in practice. Thus, this part of the exam has them handle fictional situations.
Family Lawyer Resume
Once you've completed the required education, you should start working on your resume so that you can get hired and practice as a family lawyer. To write a compelling CV, you should make sure you only include relevant information and make it as concise as possible while highlighting your key skills.
Here are some tips to help you create a strong resume:
Write an Engaging Summary Statement
The summary statement is one of the most important aspects of your resume. This is your opportunity to grab the reader's attention and briefly explain why you are the best candidate for the position. To make sure your summary statement packs a punch, avoid using generic phrases like “hard worker” or “team player.”
Instead, focus on specific accomplishments that show you have the skills and experience required for a family lawyer or a family law attorney job. This part of your resume should be brief and to the point.
Use Adequate Action Words
Action words help you precisely convey what you accomplished and highlight your experience in the field of family law. You should avoid using overused words such as “participated,” “managed,” and “worked.” Instead, when talking about your achievements, try verbs like:
Carefully Choose the Listed Skills
When employers are reviewing resumes, they will be ensuring you have the right skills for the job. That’s why it’s essential that you highlight skills relevant to your desired position. As a family lawyer, some of the key skills you should include in your application are: excellent communication, negotiation and mediation skills, excellent research and writing abilities, and extensive knowledge of family law.
Highlight Relevant Experience
If you have relevant experience, be sure to include it on your resume. Even if you don’t have direct experience as a family lawyer, you can still highlight experiences that are related to the field.
Use Bullet Points
To make your resume more readable, use bullet points when possible. This will ensure that the most important information stands out, so that the reader can’t miss key information even when skimming through a stack of resumes.
Don’t Overcrowd Your Resume
Due to the abundance of CVs they get, recruiters often peruse them. Thus, if you overcrowd your resume with tons of text, they may decide to skip it altogether. What is more, such resumes are difficult to read. A better idea is to use clear, concise language and leave out any unnecessary information.
Family Lawyer Interview Questions
Being prepared for your job interview is key to securing your dream job. While it is true that interview questions can be unpredictable and will differ based on the hiring manager, specific position being offered, and other factors, there are still some common questions that may come up in an interview for a family lawyer position.
What do you think are the most important qualities a successful lawyer should possess?
The interviewer who asks this question wants to make sure you’re aware of characteristics that make a good lawyer. Another variant of this question is: “What traits would you look for if you were the one hiring a family lawyer?”
How would you prioritize your cases?
As a family lawyer, you’ll have to juggle multiple cases, which can become quite a challenge. This question is meant to assess your ability to multitask and whether you have good organizational skills.
What aspect of family law do you find the most challenging?
This question probes into your problem-solving attitude, which is one of the key skills you should have in order to do well at your family lawyer job.
How do you keep up with the latest changes in family law?
The interviewer hiring family law attorneys wants to know if you’re proactive and resourceful enough to stay updated on the ever-changing landscape of family law.
How would you react if a client who approached you had issues with a verbally abusive spouse?
This question is often asked when the recruiter wants to assess your ability to empathize with a client and your communication skills.
What would you do if you discovered that your client had lied to you?
This question is meant to assess how you deal with difficult situations. The job of an attorney is rarely black and white, so the interviewer wants to know whether you would try to understand the client’s point of view and how you would handle such a case.
Why did you select that particular law school?
This is a question that gives you the opportunity to discuss your education. By explaining your thought process in choosing a law school, you can demonstrate that you’re serious about working as a family lawyer.
Family Lawyer Income
The salaries of family lawyers vary due to a number of factors. These include the area of specialization, educational background, experience, geographical location, and the size of the law firm. Generally speaking, the median pay for lawyers in the United States is $127,990 per year, or $61.54 per hour. The average salary of a family lawyer is $127,745 a year, or $54.79 an hour.
When it comes to the specific area of specialization in the field of family law, an adoption lawyer’s salary totals $75,834 annually, or $36 per hour on average. A divorce lawyer’s income is slightly higher, as it equals $78,000 a year, which is $38 an hour.
Challenges Faced by Family Lawyers
As is true for all jobs, you should expect to face some work-related difficulties. Here are some of the most common challenges family lawyers face:
Difficult clients: You will likely have to deal with difficult clients at some point in your career. It’s important to be patient and offer some grace as they’re going through a tough time.
Emotional cases: Since family law deals with sensitive issues, you may find yourself getting emotionally invested in your cases. This can be difficult, but it’s important to maintain a professional demeanor.
Long hours: Many family lawyers work long hours, including nights and weekends. This line of work can be tough, so make sure you’re cut out for it. Knowing you’ve helped someone, even after a long case can feel extremely rewarding.
As you can tell, family law is a challenging but gratifying field. If you have the dedication and commitment to succeed, you can find a fulfilling family law job that allows you to shine.
The Job Outlook
Family lawyers play an important role in our society, helping resolve disputes and protect the rights of families. The job outlook for this type of lawyer is positive, with the demand for their services expected to grow in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has provided the statistics that anticipate an increase in lawyers’ employment by 10% between 2021 and 2031.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do family lawyers do?
When most people think of family law, they think of someone handling a divorce. However, family lawyers do much more than that. They assist couples seeking to adopt children, help families resolve disputes over child custody and visitation rights. They also assist families in creating prenuptial agreements and post-divorce parenting plans.
In short, family lawyers play a vital role in helping families navigate the complex legal landscape.
What qualities make a good family lawyer?
A good family lawyer should have a deep understanding of the law as it pertains to families. This includes divorce, child custody, and adoption. Excellent reading comprehension and writing skills are a must, as lawyers deal with an abundance of official documents.
To be a good family lawyer, one should be patient and understanding but also firm when necessary. Being able to navigate the complex emotions that are often involved in these cases is also important. A lawyer’s job is to fight for clients’ rights, but they should also be willing to compromise when it is in their clients’ best interests.
In addition, a good family lawyer will be able to effectively communicate with both their clients and the opposing party. This combination of skills is essential for achieving the best possible outcome, at least for the client, and in some cases, for everyone involved.
How much money does a family lawyer make?
There are various family lawyer jobs, and thus, the average salary of a family lawyer depends on a number of factors, including location, experience in family law, education, and law firm size. Generally speaking, a family lawyer in the United States earns $127,745 per year, or $54.79 per hour.
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