Family Law

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Anonymous User
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Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:04 pm

Anyone know anything about practicing family at a firm? I don't mean solo or 2 or 3 guys, but at medium-to-large firms that focus on family law and handle huge estates.

I'm assuming some of the basics of family law are there, such as divorce and custody, but I would think that when you are handling multi-million dollar estates, there is a lot of focus on businesses and that sort of thing.

Anyone have any experience?

kaiser
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Re: Family Law

Postby kaiser » Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:06 pm

Why is this anonymous?

As for your question, doing trust & estates and doing family law (i.e. divorce, custody, etc.) are two entirely separate things. Divorce or custody may have some effect on how the assets of an estate are distributed. But family law is the actual process of divorce, gaining custody, etc. which is out of the realm of what a trusts/estates lawyer will do.

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:15 pm

Anonymous because it would be really easy to tell which firm if it weren't, since there aren't many like it around. Rather not have it out in the open.

I've got an offer to work for a family law firm for the summer and trying to see what it may be like. Not entirely sure it's an area I want to be in, but it's a pretty prestigious firm around here, and they pay great.

But I don't want to be locked into family law if I hate it.

keg411
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Re: Family Law

Postby keg411 » Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:59 pm

This is the only high-end type of matrimonial law firms that I know of, but there might be others
http://www.cmftlaw.com/

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:20 pm

http://www.katesbarlow.com

this one is also good.
I heard the wealthy divorcees litigate very minor things (e.g. whether their child should go for an exchange program this summer). you'll be surprised.

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:33 pm

So is family law really any different at one of the nice big firms?

And I've heard mixed things about the practice of family law. Is it really that bad? Or is that more geared toward the lower-end solos chasing divorces and stuff? This firm that I am SA'ing with only hires 1 - 3 clerks for the summer and does so with the intention of extending offers. Is it a field that is interesting at all, or just plain soul-crushing?

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:36 pm

may I ask how big is the firm?

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:38 pm

About 35 - 40 attorneys spread over a few offices.

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:44 am

Anonymous User wrote:So is family law really any different at one of the nice big firms?

And I've heard mixed things about the practice of family law. Is it really that bad? Or is that more geared toward the lower-end solos chasing divorces and stuff? This firm that I am SA'ing with only hires 1 - 3 clerks for the summer and does so with the intention of extending offers. Is it a field that is interesting at all, or just plain soul-crushing?


My friend does it at one of the aforementioned firms. It's pretty much just as soul-crushing as regular BigLaw, but it's kind of cool because at least the crazy people you work for are rich/celebrities. Most other family law is more solo/low-end type work, so it really depends on the place where you're going (though I assume if it has a SA program, the $$$ and the clients are probably closer to the "high end" side).

Anonymous User
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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 19, 2011 2:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:So is family law really any different at one of the nice big firms?

And I've heard mixed things about the practice of family law. Is it really that bad? Or is that more geared toward the lower-end solos chasing divorces and stuff? This firm that I am SA'ing with only hires 1 - 3 clerks for the summer and does so with the intention of extending offers. Is it a field that is interesting at all, or just plain soul-crushing?


My friend does it at one of the aforementioned firms. It's pretty much just as soul-crushing as regular BigLaw, but it's kind of cool because at least the crazy people you work for are rich/celebrities. Most other family law is more solo/low-end type work, so it really depends on the place where you're going (though I assume if it has a SA program, the $$$ and the clients are probably closer to the "high end" side).



I'd be very interested in hearing more about what he does, and what makes it soul-crushing, or if he actually enjoys it.

Anonymous User
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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:So is family law really any different at one of the nice big firms?

And I've heard mixed things about the practice of family law. Is it really that bad? Or is that more geared toward the lower-end solos chasing divorces and stuff? This firm that I am SA'ing with only hires 1 - 3 clerks for the summer and does so with the intention of extending offers. Is it a field that is interesting at all, or just plain soul-crushing?


My friend does it at one of the aforementioned firms. It's pretty much just as soul-crushing as regular BigLaw, but it's kind of cool because at least the crazy people you work for are rich/celebrities. Most other family law is more solo/low-end type work, so it really depends on the place where you're going (though I assume if it has a SA program, the $$$ and the clients are probably closer to the "high end" side).



I'd be very interested in hearing more about what he does, and what makes it soul-crushing, or if he actually enjoys it.


As far as I know he generally enjoys it. But the hours are long, the clients are insane and the pay isn't close to as good as "BigLaw" at the level he's at and the partners are still pretty demanding. Plus, while he's married, he doesn't have kids.

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:33 am

This is as good as it gets in Chicago: http://www.sdflaw.com/ I believe it is the largest matrimonial law firm in the country as well.

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:16 pm

It sounds like there are a few high-end firms around. What type of exit options would there be? To another of the same type of firm? To a different type of firm?

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 22, 2011 3:41 am

I did 1L SA at a family law firm and my 2L SA will have a small family law component as well, so let me chip in.

The main thing is that there are vastly different types of "family law" firms. There are firms that only do divorces. There are firms that do divorces, custodial modifications, juvenile defense, criminal defense, etc. All of these things can fall under family law and arise out of that practice. However, if the firm ONLY does the things listed above...um...run away?

Family law can be lucrative, but only to the extent that the things mentioned above bring in customers who come back for large estates, some types of civil litigation, real estate, etc. And, of course, individuals with family problems who have the money to retain lawyers often happen to be entrepreneurs and businesspeople, so a wide family law net can bring in a lot of good business in other areas. Even small businesses can be great business for a firm. To the extent that a firm's family law practice is a way of attracting clients, it's great. And family law is a riot, IMO. Some of the cases are simply absurd. And from a more serious, professional perspective: whatever you're working on is the MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER to your clients. That can be rewarding.

It's nice to take a break from working on a commercial real estate suit or a corporate bankruptcy to go to a hearing where the parties just get on the stand and absolutely trash each other despite the best efforts of both attorneys and the judge to prevent that. And juvenile and mental health hearings? Talk about unpredictable. Every day is a soap opera...if soap operas were actually entertaining and you got paid to watch them.

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:12 pm

Same anon as previous post. I want to add that there is a lot of money in estates, and sometimes in unlikely areas. I'll say that most people have no idea how much money passes through some rural law firms in the Midwest. You're talking farm estates with legal fees of $50k+ that the lawyers (well, mostly the paralegals) settle relatively quickly and easily.

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:40 pm

OP here. Thanks for the info. It doesn't sound like it would be too bad a gig. I'm definitely more interested in going to court and meeting with clients than I am in doing transactional stuff, so it sounds like I might get more chances at that at this firm. Right now, it's a choice between being a clerk there for the summer and getting paid, or no summer work at all. If I hate the work they do, then I guess I don't have to keep going with them if they offer me something.

They seem to do pretty much anything related to divorce and custody, with the main focus on large and complex estates. I think one of their current cases involves a senior partner and two or three associates and the estate is valued somewhere around $60 million. I don't think they do any criminal defense work or anything like that, they mainly focus on family law. But they are the top firm in the area for it, billing somewhere around $500 an hour or so for their work. Basically, if you're rich or famous in the area, you go them for any family law related work. I do worry about it possibly being a drag working with people in this regard, fighting over everything, but it seems like every area of the law that deals mainly with people and not companies is going to have some downside like that to it. No one goes to see a lawyer when everything is going tip-top, I suppose.

It sounds like the work is probably more entertaining than Biglaw. Thanks for the insight everyone has provided. It's made me feel better, or at least more enthused about the job.

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Re: Family Law

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Dec 24, 2011 1:29 am

I worked at a ~40 attorney firm over the summer that focused mainly on business, real estate, and commerical litigation. We also, however, had one of the top family law litigators in my state. He works on high net worth (HNW) divorces- I saw our clients' 1099s/W2s/etc... when working on his matters and the lowest I recall was $500k/year. The first project I worked on at the firm actually was creating an argument to exclude $10 million in a private equity exec's stock options from the marital estate. Anyways, at one point I saw a document I definitely should not have seen that broke down every partner's origination for the past year- this guy was > $2 million, so you can definitely put up BigLaw type numbers in a smaller family practice.

The thing about family law is that there is just so much to do- child issues, equitable distribution, alimony, etc... so even at the top levels you're doing what might be seen as "petty" things. One difference with HNW cases is that it is very heavy on both accounting and corporate law. You need to know your way around a balance sheet and financial statement, and you also need to know all about minority shareholder rights and derivative actions, because the dependent spouse will often end up a minority shareholder in a closely held or close corporation when everything is split.

Definitely credit to the poster above who said that the real money in family law is from ancillary business. In many cases, a house, or several houses, have to be sold- that's real estate work. Often times, a husband will put money in a trust for the children- estate & trust work. You have ex's who have to coexist as owners of a company- corporate and litigation. Finally, if a large sum is changing hands, you want to structure that in a way to minimize the tax consequencts. An HNW family practice can really generate a lot of business for other practices within a firm.

It's a very interesting practice, if, in my opinion, a little depressing




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