Family Law Specialist Career Profile

A career as a family law specialist requires significant formal education. Learn about the degree requirements, job duties and licensure procedures to see if this is the right career for you.

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Family law specialists are lawyers who handle cases dealing with domestic situations. They need a law degree, and can often tailor their programs to include courses in family law. A license to practice law is also a requirement.

Essential Information

A family law specialist is an attorney who works in a variety of legal situations, including marriage, divorce and child custody, as an advocate for spouses, children and the elderly. They also help delineate the distribution of family assets through estate planning. These professionals must be able to identify and address social and mental health issues and provide referrals for services.

Family law specialists must hold law degrees and be licensed to practice in their state. Licensure requires passing the state bar exam. In law school, individuals can often choose to take courses dealing with family law and gain relevant experience.

Required Education Juris doctor (J.D.) degree
Licensure State licensure
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 6% for all attorneys*
Median Salary (2016 $69,499 for family law attorneys**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Job Summary

Family law encompasses a range of areas such as marriage, divorce, child custody and visitation, asset distribution, family support, estate planning, and elder law. This specialization of the law has become more complex as societal changes and reproductive advances of the past several decades have affected parenting and created increased uncertainty in legal areas pertaining to children.

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Educational Requirements

The path to become an attorney begins with obtaining a 4-year degree. To prepare for law school, most undergraduates study a broad range of disciplines including government, political science, history, public speaking, English, business and economics. Prospective lawyers should also be good researchers and have strong analytical and speaking skills. Law school applicants must also take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) which gauges the aptitude for the study of law. Admission into law school is highly competitive.

Law schools offer a broad range of courses in the family law specialization including juvenile justice, sexuality and the law, domestic violence and child support enforcement. In addition, courses in bioethics, alternative dispute resolution and mediation are recommended.

Many law schools also offer second and third-year students the opportunity to work in family law clinics where they can gain valuable experience assisting juveniles and families facing legal challenges. After completing a 3-year course of study in law school, graduates must pass a state examination, or bar exam, before they can practice law. Candidates must check the requirements for their state.

Job Outlook

According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for attorneys could grow by 6% during the 2014-2024 decade, the average for all occupations. The BLS stated that opportunities for attorney jobs are affected by the cyclical nature of the economy. In 2015, the BLS reported that lawyers in general earned an annual median salary of $115,820. According to Payscale.com in 2016, the median family law attorney salary was $69,499.

A career as a family law specialist can incorporate a range of specialties, and requires a law degree and licensure. This field is growing at an average rate over the next ten years. Salaries for family lawyers are often less than for lawyers practicing in other areas.

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