Career Profile: Family Lawyer
When you think “lawyer,” you might think of high-profile cases against notorious lawbreakers. It seems glamorous and exciting. But, just as there are many aspects of the law itself, so there are many types of lawyers to practice different kinds of law.
Each type of law practice comes with its own job description. Family lawyers, for instance, represent clients in divorce cases, child custody disputes, and ensuring that other family members fulfill their legal obligations. They also handle matters such as wills and estates, setting up trust funds, and working with adoptions, among other matters. Family lawyers prefer to work efficiently. Court battles are time-consuming and costly. Family lawyers strive to settle disputes out of court by mediation, arbitration, or other forms of problem-solving. They will meet frequently with clients to discuss their options, advising them on the best course of action. But that is not all- attorneys have responsibilities within their own firm as well. Often, a newly-graduated lawyer will supervise office staff. These include paralegals, legal secretaries, office assistants, and interns. But getting into a law firm in the first place takes a lot of schooling.
Before you even attend law school, you must complete two to four years of schooling in other areas. Some law schools prefer that you have an undergraduate degree before they accept you. Once this prerequisite schooling is complete, the aspiring law student will study for and pass their LSATs- Law School Admission Tests. Then, at law school, they acquire their Bachelor of Laws. This qualifies them for their first year of training, called articling. While many students take their articling year in a law firm, some choose to work as a clerk for a judge.
Once this term of articling is complete, the next step is to take a bar admission course and the accompanying exams. This qualifies you for practicing law in the province where the exams were taken. If you want to practice law in other provinces, you may have to meet other requirements.
Once all of these requirements have been met, you are eligible to practice any type of law you desire. Family lawyers often specialize even further: some do only estates and wills, caring for the property of a large variety of clients. Others may do pro bono work, offering their services for free to those in desperate need of representation but who cannot hope to afford it. Some may choose only to work custody cases, support arrangements, and adoptions.
Client confidentiality is of utmost importance to all lawyers, but especially to family lawyers. Because of the often turbulent nature of cases involving family disputes, sometimes it is required that each party have a separate lawyer to avoid a conflict of interest. This means that often, a husband and wife seeking divorce would not have the same lawyer, nor would the mother and father each seeking custody of their children. This means that if a case is to be settled quickly, family lawyers must have a good working relationship with lawyers in other firms.
Working as a family lawyer takes a lot of preparation. Schooling alone takes a commitment of six to eight years, but making a difference in other people’s lives makes all that hard work worth it.