Family Lawyer: Career Information

Mar 15, 2019

Career Definition of a Family Lawyer

Family lawyers help manage legal problems between persons with familial relationships. These issues can include paternity, guardianship, juvenile delinquency, emancipation, custody, child support, adoption, and divorce. Family lawyers work in offices, courts, and educational settings. They may file legal documents, participate in mediation sessions, and offer advice to clients.

Educational and Licensing Requirements Undergraduate degree followed by a J.D. degree; some additional certification may be required
Job Skills Strong communication skills, calm under pressure, good time management and organizational skills
Median Salary (2017)* $119,250 (all lawyers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 8% (all lawyers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A family law professional is required to earn a 4-year undergraduate degree and then complete a juris doctor (J.D.) degree. Most states require that the J.D. be completed at a law school approved by the American Bar Association. Some law schools offer concentrations in family law, and some have family law clinics where students can gain experience working on cases under the supervision of a law professor.

After completing the required education, future family lawyers must successfully pass the bar exam in the states in which they plan to practice law. Some states require certification in a specialty field, such as family law. Additionally, all lawyers must complete continuing legal education credits on a regular basis to maintain their legal license.

Skills Required

A person who begins a family law career should be skilled in oral discussion, negotiation and effective debate and persuasion. The family lawyer should be observant and able to interact well with other people, even in highly stressful and emotional situations. Family lawyers also need good time management and organizational skills in order to manage multiple cases at a time. The length of time needed to build a successful practice depends upon the family lawyer's skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

Annual salaries for family law professionals are affected by their location and type of practice. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that lawyers who are partners in a large firm tend to make more than those who are self-employed. The median salary for all lawyers in May 2017 was $119,250, according to the BLS. The jobs for lawyers are expected to grow by 8% from 2016 through 2026.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:

Paralegal and Legal Assistant

For those who prefer to get started in their careers more quickly, becoming a paralegal or legal assistant might be a good option. Most of these professionals have associate's degrees in this field or a bachelor's degree in another field with a paralegal studies certificate. The BLS expected a much faster than average employment growth of 15% for these professionals from 2016-2026. The median annual salary reported by the BLS in 2017 was $50,410.

Postsecondary Teacher

These teachers can offer instruction in a wide variety of academic subjects, in addition to performing research and publishing books and papers. Salaries will vary according to subject matter and location; however, the median annual salary for all types of postsecondary teachers was $76,000 as of 2017. The BLS projected 15% job growth for postsecondary teachers, in general, from 2016-2026.

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