Family Lawyer: Career Information

Education to become a family law professional typically will require a minimum of seven years, made up of a bachelor's degree program and a legal degree program. Find out about the necessary skills, salary information and employment outlook to see if this is the career you want to pursue.

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Career Definition

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.

Becoming a Family Lawyer

Required Education

A family law professional is required to earn a 4-year undergraduate degree and then complete a juris doctor 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 2012 was $113,530, according to the BLS. The jobs for lawyers are expected to grow by 10% from 2010 through 2020 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

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 about as fast as average employment growth of 18% for these professionals, from 2010-2020. The median annual salary reported by the BLS in 2012 was $46,990.

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 $62,050 as of 2010. The BLS projected 17% job growth for postsecondary teachers in general, from 2010-2020.

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