Family law?

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drummer94
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Family law?

Postby drummer94 » Sat Dec 14, 2013 4:22 am

Recently I've read some pretty mixed feelings regarding family law. I've heard some people say that it's the best type of law to go into for the future, and I've also heard that I need to stay away from it at all costs. Some positive things I've read are that it's pretty much recession proof and the work can be pretty interesting. Some negative things I've read are that the clients never pay you. I hate when these sort of things happen!

I'm also aware that most family lawyers deal primarily with divorce cases, but do family lawyers dabble in anything outside of divorce, or any that you guys have heard of i.e. specific adoption lawyers, child abuse attorneys.

I'm just trying to get a feel for all sorts of "specializations" while I'm still in my undergrad, and this one appeals to me especially due to the interaction with people face-to-face.

Thanks guys!

notalobbyist
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Re: Family law?

Postby notalobbyist » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:35 pm

I think the issue is that there are more divorces than adoptions... Each practice would be different, but try interning for a local office to get a feel for how much of the work is divorce vs. other areas of family law.

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hichvichwoh
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Re: Family law?

Postby hichvichwoh » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:37 pm

No first-hand experience, but my impression was that divorce law was one of the more soul-crushing specializations

TheGuy
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Re: Family law?

Postby TheGuy » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:40 pm

hichvichwoh wrote:No first-hand experience, but my impression was that divorce law was one of the more soul-crushing specializations


This is what my CSO said, too. Gist is that you deal with people in miserable situation, when they are at their worst, and the outcome is always bad. Of course, that would mostly pertain to divorces. It still could be rewarding work, though.

dcoppo01
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Re: Family law?

Postby dcoppo01 » Mon Dec 16, 2013 1:12 am

I work in family division of courts in the judiciary. It is not fun. Very tough work and extremely busy, at least from my point of view. Lawyers charge clients through the nose for short periods of time and I don't even work in an affluent area.

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Domke
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Re: Family law?

Postby Domke » Mon Dec 16, 2013 2:49 pm

I have a family friend who is a divorce attorney. He makes good money and seems mostly happy. But he has been divorced 3 times and had two people try to kill him, so there is that.

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kalvano
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Re: Family law?

Postby kalvano » Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:30 pm

I summered at a high-end family law firm. It's more than a bit miserable after a bit.

BigZuck
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Re: Family law?

Postby BigZuck » Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:34 pm

Domke wrote:I have a family friend who is a divorce attorney. He makes good money and seems mostly happy. But he has been divorced 3 times and had two people try to kill him, so there is that.


Go on...

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deadpanic
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Re: Family law?

Postby deadpanic » Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:42 am

Generally, from my experience your clients usually 1) don't (and possibly can't) pay you and 2) lie to you.

So yeah, not exactly a desirable field to me.

drummer94
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Re: Family law?

Postby drummer94 » Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:33 pm

dcoppo01 wrote:I work in family division of courts in the judiciary. It is not fun. Very tough work and extremely busy, at least from my point of view. Lawyers charge clients through the nose for short periods of time and I don't even work in an affluent area.


Can I ask what you do exactly on a general, day-to-day basis? You certainly don't have to get into specifics, but just what type of clients you represent/work with.

BamaLaw
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Re: Family law?

Postby BamaLaw » Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:12 pm

I've worked for a family law attorney for three years as a clerk while doing my undergraduate. I occasionally read this forum just to see what people are saying about anything law school related. The practice consists of one attorney, two paralegals, one law clerk, and an office manager. Fairly small operation. The attorney has over 50 open cases and is considered to be one of the best in the state. Lot of negativity in this post but I can say I haven't seen any of the things described above. To start, if clients don't pay their bill then we just file and record a lien against any property they have until we are paid. This can range from land, a house, a car, etc. It becomes ours until we file and record the lien has been paid off. I will admit that you do see people at their worst, but your job is to help them get through it the best they can and to support their best interests. One of the original posters asked about some of the things that are done here. Well for the most part, the attorney is either on the phone with clients, in mediation, in depositions, or in court. I would say mediation is the largest portion of that time because most family law attorneys want to go to mediation. Preparing for a jury trial is a lot of work and explaining child support worksheets to a jury isn't easy. Depositions don't take up that much time but he has a lot of small hearings each week to schedule mediation or larger hearings. All in all, I can say family law is going to be my main focus in law school with clinics and electives. I take all the checks to the bank and I know he makes very good money. I know that won't be the case for all but I think that if you can handle people when they're emotional and can stand the longer hours, then word will get around to new clients and you will do well as a family law attorney. I forgot to add some of the things I do here. Mostly I just file documents in court around the state. I do travel a lot. I serve subpoenas usually for depositions and trial and I have some interesting stories for most of those. I help produce documents for discovery, help in court when needed, and some general office work. I love my job and it has renewed my interest in family law.

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ggocat
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Re: Family law?

Postby ggocat » Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:30 pm

drummer94 wrote: Some positive things I've read are that it's pretty much recession proof and the work can be pretty interesting. Some negative things I've read are that the clients never pay you.

First, family law is not necessarily recession-proof. Google "divorce rate recession." At least, I wouldn't say it's more recession-proof than most other consumer-oriented practices. (But I don't work in private practice, so I can't really comment on the merits of the arguments.)

Second, regarding not getting paid, you have to remember Foonberg's Rule.

doooook
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Re: Family law?

Postby doooook » Fri Jan 17, 2014 9:41 pm

I just finished up an internship at a family law firm in downtown Honolulu that I had for about 8 months.

Consisted of 4-5 attorneys, 2 paralegals, 2 "gatekeepers", and me, the intern.

I enjoyed working there a lot. I enjoyed going through the cases, seeing how crazy some women (and men) can be, and liked the aspect of helping out other people who are undoubtedly going through some tough times. I had heard from my boss that because the clients are stressed they can be pretty harsh and demanding.

Receiving payments was sometimes an issue and there would be liens placed on properties because they did not pay the firm. The main attorney, who owned the firm, also did real estate law on the side. They also handled adoptions, among some other family-related issues.

Overall a nice experience. I think that the attorneys in Hawaii are generally pretty kind, which made the experience that much better. I am considering going into family law as well, with real estate on the side. Who knows. Good luck.

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BlueLotus
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Re: Family law?

Postby BlueLotus » Mon Jan 20, 2014 5:37 pm

What classes are essential for folks wanting to go into this practice area?
Family Law (duh), Evidence, and Trusts and Estates, and Tax immediately come to mind...any others? I'm assuming that any clinic that gets you in-court experience would be solid as well.

ltrego
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Re: Family law?

Postby ltrego » Mon Jan 20, 2014 5:45 pm

I know someone who is interning at a family law firm, and he loves it. He said it's depressing sometimes, but overall rewarding. Pretty sure I would hate it, but it probably all depends on the person.

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cinephile
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Re: Family law?

Postby cinephile » Mon Jan 20, 2014 6:53 pm

I've done two family law internships and literally everyone I've worked with hates their job and is incredibly cynical. They have zero trust in their own clients and assume the worst about everyone. But maybe this is a normal lawyer thing no matter what you do.

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BlueLotus
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Re: Family law?

Postby BlueLotus » Mon Jan 20, 2014 6:59 pm

cinephile wrote:I've done two family law internships and literally everyone I've worked with hates their job and is incredibly cynical. They have zero trust in their own clients and assume the worst about everyone. But maybe this is a normal lawyer thing no matter what you do.


was it in a family law firm or legal aid?

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kalvano
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Re: Family law?

Postby kalvano » Mon Jan 20, 2014 7:09 pm

BlueLotus wrote:
cinephile wrote:I've done two family law internships and literally everyone I've worked with hates their job and is incredibly cynical. They have zero trust in their own clients and assume the worst about everyone. But maybe this is a normal lawyer thing no matter what you do.


was it in a family law firm or legal aid?



That's pretty much family law.

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BlueLotus
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Re: Family law?

Postby BlueLotus » Mon Jan 20, 2014 7:16 pm

kalvano wrote:
BlueLotus wrote:
cinephile wrote:I've done two family law internships and literally everyone I've worked with hates their job and is incredibly cynical. They have zero trust in their own clients and assume the worst about everyone. But maybe this is a normal lawyer thing no matter what you do.


was it in a family law firm or legal aid?



That's pretty much family law.


interesting, lol. well, i'll find out for myself this summer, where I'll be at an LSC-funded legal aid org. Seems like most folks in legal aid legit love what they do judging from my experience 1L summer and my current school-year externships.

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cinephile
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Re: Family law?

Postby cinephile » Mon Jan 20, 2014 8:45 pm

BlueLotus wrote:interesting, lol. well, i'll find out for myself this summer, where I'll be at an LSC-funded legal aid org. Seems like most folks in legal aid legit love what they do judging from my experience 1L summer and my current school-year externships.


Sounds like a good organization. But in general, it seems like people burn out quickly in family law.

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banjo
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Re: Family law?

Postby banjo » Tue Jan 21, 2014 1:38 am

I assisted on a few family law cases (usually clients we were concurrently representing in an unrelated business matter). The attorneys hated the work and grumbled that it wasn't real law. I haven't taken family law, so I don't know if that's true or not. Nonpayment of legal bills was also an issue, but our firm would never encumber a former client's property, no matter how steep the bill. That was considered a little TTTT.

timbs4339
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Re: Family law?

Postby timbs4339 » Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:56 pm

Once had an interesting conversation with a longtime family law practitioner. He aid "one of the coolest things about my job is that I get a CC permit (in a state where nobody gets a CC permit unless you really need it or are in law enforcement). That's because if my client's ex-spouse isn't trying to kill me, it probably means my client is."

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Neteshy
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Re: Family law?

Postby Neteshy » Wed Feb 05, 2014 12:20 pm

I'm really interested in Family Law also and I've had the fortunate experience of shadowing my mom who is a public defender doing only family law. What I can say it is definitely not for some people. The clients are demanding they always think they know the law and you don't, and if you can imagine since you are dealing with their kid, property...etc they get hysterical if it doesn't go their way.

I wanted to answer the OP question about what else is done besides divorces. My mother doesn't do divorces simply because the PD office doesn't handle them, so she deals mostly with custody/visitation (which can be the most interesting to watch), neglect/abuse, she will represent the parents on a PINS case, and she will represent people who are so far behind in child support that they are facing jail time, which sucks for her because by that point the judge is unsympathetic to the client and most of the time there is nothing she can do.

If you are a private firm you do all of the above, including divorces. You also have an opportunity to sign up for the law guardian program and represent the child on these cases so someone is making sure what is happening is in the best interest of the child. Private attorneys can also handle the JD cases. I think that covers pretty much all the types of cases I've seen.

I like the prospect of going to family law because as opposed to criminal it is more shades of grey, it is a lot more than say GUILTY and more trying to figure out the best situation for the child, and then getting the parents back on a track of gaining custody of their child again, if they lost it. So, at first cases can be really ugly, but once you get it into model court stage it is really getting the family back on track and that can be rewarding when someone finally manages to turn their life around and become some sort of parent. With what I've seen unless it EXTREMELY dangerous or the parents continue not to do what they are supposed to DSS tries to help with the intention of giving the child back (at least here in New York).

Oh and I forgot my mom also deals with family offense cases (DV), not directed toward the child, but between adults. Sorry if that was too long as you see I get excited about this.

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Otunga
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Re: Family law?

Postby Otunga » Wed Feb 05, 2014 6:04 pm

Neteshy wrote:I'm really interested in Family Law also and I've had the fortunate experience of shadowing my mom who is a public defender doing only family law. What I can say it is definitely not for some people. The clients are demanding they always think they know the law and you don't, and if you can imagine since you are dealing with their kid, property...etc they get hysterical if it doesn't go their way.

I wanted to answer the OP question about what else is done besides divorces. My mother doesn't do divorces simply because the PD office doesn't handle them, so she deals mostly with custody/visitation (which can be the most interesting to watch), neglect/abuse, she will represent the parents on a PINS case, and she will represent people who are so far behind in child support that they are facing jail time, which sucks for her because by that point the judge is unsympathetic to the client and most of the time there is nothing she can do.

If you are a private firm you do all of the above, including divorces. You also have an opportunity to sign up for the law guardian program and represent the child on these cases so someone is making sure what is happening is in the best interest of the child. Private attorneys can also handle the JD cases. I think that covers pretty much all the types of cases I've seen.

I like the prospect of going to family law because as opposed to criminal it is more shades of grey, it is a lot more than say GUILTY and more trying to figure out the best situation for the child, and then getting the parents back on a track of gaining custody of their child again, if they lost it. So, at first cases can be really ugly, but once you get it into model court stage it is really getting the family back on track and that can be rewarding when someone finally manages to turn their life around and become some sort of parent. With what I've seen unless it EXTREMELY dangerous or the parents continue not to do what they are supposed to DSS tries to help with the intention of giving the child back (at least here in New York).

Oh and I forgot my mom also deals with family offense cases (DV), not directed toward the child, but between adults. Sorry if that was too long as you see I get excited about this.


It sounds like interesting work IMO. But it's clear someone needs to restrain themselves a lot when dealing with those types of situations and clients.

ayl
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Re: Family law?

Postby ayl » Thu Feb 06, 2014 3:32 pm

Just adding my two bits as far as "specialization" within family law. My father has been an adoption attorney for the past 50-ish years. When he finished law school in 1966, he didn't even know it existed, and it pretty much fell into his lap while talking with a friend who was an OB/GYN. At that time, no one wanted to deal with unwed mothers and their children, so physician friend started sending him clients.

Now, Pops will take a number of different cases/legal needs, but he is, and nearly always has been, primarily an adoption attorney. Some people will think, "Wow, that must be so rewarding," and it can be, but I can't even tell you the number of times adoptions have fallen through at the last minute, or something went wrong with a home visit, or otherwise disintegrated. Birth parents often use him (e.g. one used the provided financial assistance to buy drugs and the baby had to go through withdrawal at birth), and adoptive parents can also take their anger/frustration/depression out on him when things don't go right. He has also had to be somewhat of a parental figure to teenagers having children. That all being said, of course there are upsides, otherwise I doubt he would still be doing it. He'll also be the first one to tell you never to go to law school :)

However, I think it's just like any job - you're going to have things that are awful, and things that keep you going into the office day-to-day (besides a paycheck). People are flat-out crazy, and when your work revolves around them, you can have emotions escalate before quickly plummeting, and in the same day, feel down and out before something puts you through the roof happy. You have to be realistic about life not being rainbows and unicorns, and you have to be okay with things hitting the fan on a regular basis. It's not the most glamorous of the legal field, but it can be supremely rewarding to place a child in the arms of parents who may never have otherwise had the chance for the happiness a child can bring.




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