Why students shouldn’t be so quick to write off family law

Every law student who aspires to be a family lawyer has experienced the somewhat awkward, but not surprising, shocked gasp and grimace of another person after telling them that family law is the goal.

That person (usually the aspiring corporate or commercial lawyer) almost always responds with a statement along the lines of “but that must be so hard and emotional”.

Given that many students aspire to be the Harvey Spector’s or Elle Woods’ of the world, it is incredibly common that many of them write off family law without considering the numerous benefits this area has to offer to a young lawyer.

As there is no Hollywood fictionalised family lawyer for students to aspire to, this article outlines three big ticket items of family law for young lawyers, and why students shouldn’t be too quick to write it off.

  1. Time in court

A common goal of the aspiring corporate lawyer is their desire to become a great litigator. The aspiring commercial lawyers can be seen participating in the law school mooting competitions, or witness examination at every opportunity to advance their skills in this regard.

These students are ready for their time in court.

What many of them do not realise is that young family lawyers often have more exposure to the court system and appear far mor regularly in the Federal Circuit and Family Court than young corporate or commercial lawyers.

Between court ordered dispute resolution conferences and defended hearings, there are ample opportunities for young lawyers to appear before the court. Obviously, this greatly assists young lawyers with gaining an in-depth understanding of the court system and processes early on in their career.

Here at Feeney Family Law, our young lawyers frequently appear on behalf of our clients before the court for numerous reasons.

  1. Interacting with the clients

Unlike commercial or intellectual property law, family law allows you to build significant rapport with your clients.

Our clients are almost always “everyday” people who come from an array of backgrounds and cultures, which require legal assistance as a result of a breakdown in their relationship.

Young lawyers have far more involvement in speaking and meeting directly with the client on a regular basis, than they might in a tax or commercial setting.

It is extremely common for young lawyers, and paralegals to have relatively constant communication with the client.

As you can imagine, this naturally develops young lawyers’ interpersonal skills which greatly assists in all aspects of life.

It is expected, and very common, that the clients are likely to be extremely emotional and in a particularly fragile, anxiety-fraught part of their life. Our work, and the outcome that we receive from a matter can have a potentially drastic effect on our client’s lives. For this reason, it is vital that young family lawyers actively listen and correctly advise their client’s while understanding the emotional turmoil and difficulty they are facing.

Students often wish to make a positive change in the world. Once a matter is finalised, and the client is satisfied with the outcome, it is immensely rewarding to have had such a positive impact in their lives. Often it is not just the client, but also their children that benefit from our work. This is
something for students to consider when deciding whether family law is an option for them.

  1. Getting the win

Something that practitioners who work in family law recognise very early on in their careers, is that there is no real win or lose in family law.

In many cases, a partial win is a win. It is not uncommon for client’s to “˜give and take’ throughout the process, especially at the negotiation and mediation stages of a matter.

The “need to win” mentality common in other areas of law is significantly challenged in family law.

That is not to say that family lawyers don’t need to fight to advance their client’s case, but the goal should never be to bulldoze over the other side to advance our client’s case.

Our clients are people, who often share children with the other party, and it is vital that we work together with the other side to advance everyone’s best interest.

A drawcard to family law is that it is resolution focused, rather than “˜win’ focused. While the collaborative approach is not always possible, it does allow young lawyers to acquire and exhibit skills of cooperation and “˜big picture’ thinking.

Family law practitioners choose to specialise in family law for an array of reasons, the pros outlined above are just a handful of them.

Hopefully next time a student is faced with the very common utter shock and disbelief from others, they enlighten them with the ample positives of a career in family law. Who knows, family law may gain a practitioner or two.