Should I Become an Adoption Attorney?
Adoption law is a component of family law. If you become an adoption attorney, you'll provide representation to both birth and adoptive parents. You'll deal with litigation issues pertaining to parental consent, parental rights, and wrongful adoption as well as those relating to sexual orientation, race and culture, and international adoption. Your job may also involve helping clients set up trust accounts, providing guidance in seeking an adoptive or birth family, and ensuring that all legal aspects of an adoption are adhered to.
As an adoption attorney, you could work for a firm or government agency, or you may choose to open a private practice. In either case, you should be prepared to work long hours. It's also not unusual for attorneys to deal with high-pressure situations in representing their clients.
Adoption attorneys should have their Juris Doctor, or J.D., degree in law. All states require lawyers to be licensed. Some key skills for adoption attorneys include critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research, and writing skills.
As of 2015, the median annual salary for family law attorneys was $69,658.
|Degree Level||Juris Doctor (J.D.)|
|Licensure||All states require that lawyers be licensed|
|Key Skills||Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research and writing skills|
|Salary (2015)||$69,658 (median for family law attorneys)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop, job listings (2012-2015), Payscale.com
Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree
Many law schools require that applicants possess a bachelor's degree. Although no specific undergraduate field of study is required to attend law school, courses in economics, English, public speaking, government, and history can be helpful preparation. Aspiring adoption attorneys may consider completing coursework in child and family studies in order to gain insight into family dynamics and child development.
- Prepare for the LSAT. The scores on this exam can be a major factor in a student's admission to a particular school. It's possible to take sample tests and buy prep books in order to study on one's own. There are also a variety of companies that offer multi-week prep sessions designed to familiarize examinees with the test's format.
Step 2: Take the LSAT
All students applying to law school must take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and submit their scores to schools along with their applications. Most undergraduate students take the LSAT during their junior year of study. The exam, which requires of a half-day of testing, consists of multiple-choice questions designed to test prospect law students' analytical reasoning and critical thinking skills.
Step 3: Complete Law School
Law school requires three years of full-time study to complete. The first year generally covers basic law subjects such as property, torts, civil procedure, and contracts. Second-and third-year students take elective courses and may also undertake internships with local judges or complete clinical experiences.
Clinical law experiences are part of the law school curriculum and provide students the opportunity to gain supervised practical legal experience while attending classes. Students work in law clinics, interview clients, file motions, and sometimes even conduct court trials. Clinical law experiences are generally not paid unless they are undertaken during the summer.
Some law schools allow students to concentrate their studies or take electives in family law. Examples of course topics in family law include ethical issues in family law, trial advocacy, children and the law, education law, and bioethics.
- Complete a family law clinical experience or fellowship. Students who work in family law clinics often provide free services to families and children with low income while at the same time gaining experience in issues like custody, adoption, and other civil areas. Fellowships have similar duties associated with them but are paid, and students must apply for them.
- Complete a judicial internship with a family law judge. Working alongside a family law judge can provide students with an introduction into how the courts handle family law disputes. Students are assigned to a family law court and gain valuable information and experience in mediation, negotiations between attorneys and judges, court trials, jury selection, and other aspects of the legal system that may not be part of the student's curriculum.
Step 4: Pass the Bar Exam
Becoming a licensed attorney usually requires passing the bar exam for the state in which one wishes to work along with a professional responsibility exam. The format of each state's bar exam differs but often includes several days of multiple choice and essay questions.
- Prepare for the bar. The bar exam is very intensive, and those taking it usually need to devote a large number of hours of study to preparing for the exam in order to increase their chances of passing it on the first attempt. Several companies offer exam prep courses that provide instruction about the subjects on the exam and provide sample questions and test-taking techniques.
Step 5: Join a Professional Association
Adoption attorneys who have worked in family law for three years and served as counsel on at least 25 adoptions can apply for provisional membership in the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. After five years practicing law and working on at least 50 adoptions, attorneys become eligible for full membership as Fellows of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. They are then listed in the AAAA's Academy Directory, where prospective clients can search for adoption attorneys among the association's membership, allowing adoption attorneys with this distinction to increase their client base.
Hopeful adoption attorneys must obtain a bachelor's degree, take the LSAT, complete law school, and pass the bar exam.