Family Law: How to Become a Family Lawyer (2022)

This page provides you with all of the information you need to become a family lawyer. This an popular and exciting area of the law but can see some emotional aspects when it comes to divorce and other disputes.

What Is Family Law?

Family Law focuses on finding solutions to issues relating to often complex legal relationships. These include marriage and parenthood among others. For this reason, family law practice can involve work with varying groups from children to the elderly and any others in between. Because family law relates to some very personal aspects of a client’s life, it can be one of the most emotive areas of law to practice.

At degree level, family law often comprises an elective module in the final year of a student’s LLB degree. Modules can vary by university and may include a sociological look at the way society views family as well as a specific focus on the law’s practical application.

Family Law Topics

Family Law is incredibly diverse. This means that the topics studied at one institution are often different from those studied at another.

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Most modules will feature some core topics (such as marriage, divorce and children) as well as others which will be more specifically linked to the professors’ areas of expertise.

Examples include:

  • Divorce, dissolution and financial separation
  • Children, parentage, residence, contact and parental responsibility. This may also include adoption, surrogacy, child abduction and even abuse/neglect
  • Children’s Rights (taking into consideration a child’s ability to make their own decisions)
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Domestic obligations towards families under International Treaties such as the ECHR
  • Socio-legal Family Law: a more general look at what society defines family as and whether the law has adequately responded to modern societal views. Examples include the law of parentage in the context of a rise in same-sex couples
  • Family law and the State. This includes the role of agencies and local authorities in childcare and protection

How to Become a Family Lawyer

To become a family lawyer, you must demonstrate certain personal characteristics and relevant work experience. You’ll also have to indicate your passion for the subject.

Is it for Me?

A career in family law may require working with both adults and children, so you must be prepared for client-facing work. These children and adults may find themselves in distressing situations, and so you muse be able to cope in those scenarios.

It also helps if you have a passion for helping people and want to work on handling relationships and interacting with your clients. Your work as a family lawyer will vary hugely from that of a tax lawyer, for example. It is also important to be able to detach yourself from the client and their problems on a personal level, as you must always stay professional.

What Work Experience Do I need?

If you are looking to go into a career in family law, some impressive work experience includes:

(Video) Divorce Advice : How to Become a Family Lawyer

  • Completing a vacation scheme or formal work experience at a firm that specialises in family law
  • Completing a mini pupillage that allows you to shadow a barrister working on a family law case
  • Marshalling (shadowing) a judge that is sitting on a family law case
  • Entering/winning prizes in family law essay competitions at university, showing your interest in the field
  • Taking part in family pro bono work in legal clinics

What Does a Family Lawyer Do?

Family Lawyers exist to help clients understand their position and resolve any issues relating to any particular familial arrangement. They can draft pre-nuptial agreements before marriage to protect someone’s financial interests, advise on the grounds of divorce or civil partnership dissolution and draft separation agreements.

Family lawyers can also advise on reasonable financial settlements following divorce and make sure assets are divided reasonably and fairly between parties.

Regarding children, family lawyers negotiate arrangements such as contact, residence and access. They also facilitate the resolution of specific issues in a child’s upbringing such as who has parental responsibility to make certain decisions regarding the child.

Family lawyers are best placed to make applications for any court orders which might be relevant to the case they are working on. If no settlement can be made, a family lawyer can also help clients through the in-court process.

On a day-to-day basis, a family lawyer might have to:

  • Attend meetings with clients
  • Research similar previous cases to the ones they are working on
  • Analyse points of law
  • Draft legal documents, such as witness statements
  • Investigate and evaluate evidence that might be beneficial for their clients
  • Negotiate with opposition to reach a settlement agreement
  • File applications in the family court
  • Meet with barristers to discuss matters going to trial
  • Attend hearings in court before a judge or jury

Private Family Law

Private Family Law cases are those brought forward by individuals. These generally include divorce, civil partnership dissolution and private disputes concerning children.

Additionally, they can involve matters such as financial applications, special guardianship orders and orders under s8 of the Children Act 1989 to decide a child’s primary residence, parental contact and other specific disputes.

On the other hand, Public Family Law cases are those brought forward by local authorities or an authorised person such as the NSPCC to protect the child.

These can include matters such as care orders regarding a child’s parental responsibility, supervision orders to put a child under the supervision of the local authority and emergency protection orders which ensure a child’s immediate safety.

Family Law Arbitration

Arbitration is an out-of-court process and an alternative way to resolve disputes. It is private, confidential and carried out by a trained arbitrator.

More often nowadays, family law practice includes a commitment to offering alternative dispute resolution such as arbitration to avoid resorting to potentially stressful court action. Some family lawyers may even have trained as mediators or arbitrators to be able to provide such services to their clients

During family law arbitration, parties enter into an agreement under which they allow the arbitrator to adjudicate a dispute regarding finances or children following a relationship breakdown. They agree to be bound by the reasoned written decision of the arbitrator.

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Arbitration is often described as faster and more flexible than formal court decision making. Due to this, it is often more cost-effective than court.

However, arbitration is not suitable for everyone. For example, if one party may attempt to hide assets or if one of the parties is in fear of the other or is particularly vulnerable, arbitration may not be suitable.

Family Law Act 1996

The Family Law Act (FLA) is an Act of Parliament governing divorce law and marriage. It was brought into force in 1996. The purpose of the act was to modernise the divorce process whilst moving forward with a general goal of saving marriages and making divorce more peaceful.

Before its implementation, the new divorce procedure under this act which included compulsory information meetings before divorce was tested.

Unfortunately, despite seemingly advantageous goals, the FLA 1996 was not well received in pilot studies. For that reason, up until the governments’ recent commitment to implementing “no-fault divorce”, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 continued to contain the relevant provisions regarding divorce.

(Video) Day in the Life of a Family Lawyer

Family Law Firms

There are many specialist Family Law firms in the UK as well as firms that have renowned family law departments. Some of which include:

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  • Charles Russell Speechlys LLP
  • Dawson Cornwell
  • Farrer and Co
  • Mischon de Reya LLP
  • Mills and Reeve LLP
  • Kingsley Napley LLP
  • Burgess Salmon LLP
  • Irwin Mitchell

Family Law Books

There are plenty of family law books available to help those studying the topic. Prices listed are for the newest editions of the books. Older editions will be cheaper and just as valuable.

NameAuthorPrice (approximate)
Family LawJonathan Herring£34
Family Law, Text, Cases and MaterialsJoanna Miles, Rob George, Sonia Harris-Short£35,99
Great Debates in Family LawJonathan Herring£27
Family Law Made Simple - Marriage, Divorce, Children, Separation and The Legal SystemSlater & Gordon£4
Family Law Concentrate: Law Revision and Study GuideSusan Heenan and Anna Heenan£9,99
Family Law A to Z: A Reference Book for Litigants and StudentsNick Langford and Ruth Langford£14,99


What is the most a family lawyer can make? ›

$115,000 is the 75th percentile. Salaries above this are outliers. $140,000 is the 90th percentile.

Why do you want to practice family law? ›

It is a rewarding experience when you can step into a difficult situation and walk a family through it, answer their questions, be the voice of reason, and achieve for them the best possible result. Family Law is a specialized area of civil litigation and involves anything that has to do with the family relationship.

How do I become a family lawyer in California? ›

How to become a lawyer in California
  1. Determine LSAT requirements. ...
  2. Enroll in law school. ...
  3. Pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. ...
  4. Take the California Bar Exam. ...
  5. Maintain licensure.
3 May 2021

What is the difference between barrister and solicitor? ›

The basic difference between barristers and solicitors is that a barrister mainly defends people in court and a solicitor mainly performs legal work outside court. There are, however, exceptions. When people talk about going to see their lawyer, it is usually a solicitor that they will contact.

What type of lawyer gets paid the most? ›

Some of the highest-paid lawyers are:
  • Medical Lawyers – Average $138,431. Medical lawyers make one of the highest median wages in the legal field. ...
  • Intellectual Property Attorneys – Average $128,913. ...
  • Trial Attorneys – Average $97,158. ...
  • Tax Attorneys – Average $101,204. ...
  • Corporate Lawyers – $116,361.
18 Dec 2020

What is the highest paid lawyer? ›

Highest paid lawyers: salary by practice area
  • Tax attorney (tax law): $122,000.
  • Corporate lawyer: $115,000.
  • Employment lawyer: $87,000.
  • Real Estate attorney: $86,000.
  • Divorce attorney: $84,000.
  • Immigration attorney: $84,000.
  • Estate attorney: $83,000.
  • Public Defender: $63,000.
7 Jun 2022

Is family law Hard? ›

Family law is an underserviced area of law, as it is not only tough but in demand. With divorce rates sitting at almost 50%, there is a never-ending list of people who are looking for a family lawyer. Getting clients should not be difficult if you are good at what you do.

What do family lawyers do on a daily basis? ›

As the term implies, family lawyers focus on issues that have an impact on families. They deal with matters such as divorce proceedings, adoptions, and child custody. Common tasks include drafting custody agreements, wills, prenuptial agreements, and other documents.

What are the different areas of family law? ›

Family law disputes that are handled in the judicial system include: divorce, separation, adoption, child custody, visitation rights, financial settlements and distribution of assets, domestic violence, guardianship, and child abuse and neglect.

What is an attorney vs lawyer? ›

However, when practising law, lawyers can only provide legal assistance, advice, and counselling to their clients while an attorney can represent clients in court and initiate defendant prosecutions in addition to providing legal counsel and consultation.

What is a silk in law? ›

A Silk lawyer is the colloquial name given to a Queen's Counsel (QC), a senior barrister (in England) or advocate (in Scotland) who is selected by an independent panel committee due to their knowledge, experience and skill.

Is barrister higher than a lawyer? ›

It can be helpful to think of barristers as the “front of house” of the legal system (the Courts) and solicitors as making up the “back office”. However, there is no pecking order as such when it comes to solicitors and barristers, one is not better, more senior or more important than the other!

Is California the hardest bar exam? ›

When thinking about the hardest bar exams, it's hard not to immediately bring up California. According to popular opinion, California might have the most difficult bar exam in the country. Often referred to as a “torture session” spread over three days, California recently decreased it to two.

Is being a lawyer hard? ›

The hard truth is that the legal profession is extremely draining. When you choose to be a lawyer, you are choosing a path that often requires putting in long hours to study and prepare for each case. Clients can be demanding.

Is becoming a lawyer difficult? ›

Becoming a lawyer in California is one of the most difficult, and most rewarding, career choices you can make. California is notoriously one of the most difficult bars to obtain membership in, and the steps necessary to do so include earning multiple college degrees, taking entrance examinations, and submitting ...

What type of lawyer makes the least money? ›

Public Defender. Public defenders have the tough job of representing criminals who cannot pay for or cannot find their representation for an upcoming hearing or trial. They are notoriously overworked and underpaid, as are many people in the public service sector of the law.

Is a law degree worth it? ›

The highest 10% of lawyers earned median annual earnings of more than $208,000 in 2019. Some law school graduates forgo serving as a lawyer in order to have more work-life balance. There are many jobs you can do with a law degree and legal-related roles where having a J.D. may be an asset.

What job makes the most money in the world? ›

The highest-paying job in the world, in a traditional sense, holds the number one spot in this article: anesthesiologist. They are also the only job listed above $300,000 a year. The list, however, does not take into account mega-CEOs like Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos, who make considerably more than that.

Which field of law is best? ›

16 Top Areas of Law
  1. Complex Litigation. This is an area of law that demands a lot of patience and incredible attention to detail. ...
  2. Corporate Law. ...
  3. Tax Law. ...
  4. Intellectual Property. ...
  5. Blockchain. ...
  6. Healthcare. ...
  7. Environmental. ...
  8. Criminal.

How much does law school cost? ›

Average Cost of Law School

Most law programs take three years to complete. On average, law school tuition costs $84,558 at public universities for in-state students, and $147,936 for students that attend private universities.

How can I become a good lawyer? ›

5 qualities you need to become a great lawyer
  1. Communication: Strong reading, writing, and verbal communication skills are critical to the study and practice of law. ...
  2. Research: ...
  3. Attention to detail: ...
  4. Teamwork: ...
  5. Time management:
22 Feb 2022

How long does it take to study family law? ›

Duration The duration of the programme will in general be four semesters (2 years) but may be completed within two semesters (1 year) where possible, subject to fulfilment of all the requirements for the degree and payment of the full amount prescribed for the LLM degree.

What is an example of family law? ›

Family law courts hear civil law cases involving child maltreatment, juvenile delinquency, DV, legal separation and divorce, paternity, parental competence, child custody, adoption, legal guardianship, emancipation of a minor, spousal or child support, and community property.

What family lawyers do? ›

What Do Family Law Attorneys Do? Provide representation for client in court in legal cases as pertains to family law. Advise staff on legal matters and interprets laws, regulations, and policies. Interact routinely with caseworkers, supervisors, program directors and program administrators.

What are 5 things that lawyers do? ›

Duties of Lawyers

Advise and represent clients in courts, before government agencies, and in private legal matters. Communicate with their clients, colleagues, judges, and others involved in the case. Conduct research and analysis of legal problems. Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and ...

What's it like working in family law? ›

Careers in family law provide stable hours and up close and personal work with clients. Family law is not for everyone. The personal nature of casework often proves challenging as family lawyers seek to legally resolve failed marriages, heated custody battles, and paternity cases.

How many hours does a lawyer work a day? ›

The truth is, lawyers work between 50 and 60 hours weekly on average. In fact, the many hours law students spend to get their degrees are both preparation and practice for them to work hard.

What are the 7 types of laws? ›

  • Public and Private Law.
  • Civil Law and Criminal Law.
  • Substantive and Procedural Law.
  • Municipal and International Law.
  • Written and Unwritten Law.
  • Common Law and Equity.
11 Mar 2016

What are the 3 most common types of law? ›

  • Criminal Law.
  • Civil Law.
  • Administrative Law.

Does family law pay well UK? ›

Family Lawyer - Average Salary

The average salary for a Family Lawyer is £56,700 gross per year (£3,450 net per month), which is £27,100 (+92%) higher than the UK's national average salary.

What does a family lawyer do? ›

As the term implies, family lawyers focus on issues that have an impact on families. They deal with matters such as divorce proceedings, adoptions, and child custody. Common tasks include drafting custody agreements, wills, prenuptial agreements, and other documents.

How much do family barristers earn UK? ›

During the first year of qualification barristers can expect to bring in anything from £12,000 to £90,000 dependant on their line of work. As barristers gain experience however, their case load and rate will increase and within five years of experience a barrister can expect to earn between £50,000 and £200,000.

What law pays the most UK? ›

The most profitable legal area is commercial and corporate law, where solicitors can easily earn over £100,000 a year. Commercial lawyers provide business-related advice to companies, making sure that they comply with regulation and a particular country's legal system.

Is Family Law Hard? ›

Family law is an underserviced area of law, as it is not only tough but in demand. With divorce rates sitting at almost 50%, there is a never-ending list of people who are looking for a family lawyer. Getting clients should not be difficult if you are good at what you do.

Why do lawyers earn so much? ›

The most commonly cited reason is simply the investment of money to become a lawyer. Unlike many graduate programs in the sciences or liberal arts, there does not tend to be money available for those wanting to become lawyers, so that the cost must be paid for either out of pocket or through loans.

How can a lawyer make a lot of money? ›

Here are eight ways to start doing that.
  1. Stop wasting time with the wrong clients. ...
  2. Spend time getting better clients. ...
  3. Work smarter, not longer. ...
  4. Spend less money. ...
  5. Improve your client intake process. ...
  6. Accept credit card payments to get paid faster. ...
  7. Hire staff or use cost-effective services. ...
  8. Use technology to streamline your day.
13 Sept 2022

What type of law is family law? ›

Family law or matrimonial law incorporates family matters and domestic relationships such as marriage and civil unions, divorce and annulment, child custody and the best interests of the child, maintenance, child abuse and domestic violence.

How long does it take to study family law? ›

Duration The duration of the programme will in general be four semesters (2 years) but may be completed within two semesters (1 year) where possible, subject to fulfilment of all the requirements for the degree and payment of the full amount prescribed for the LLM degree.

What is family law subject? ›

Family Law I is a core course mandated by the Bar Council. The course deals with marriage & divorce, adoption, guardianship and custody, maintenance, social legislations which have a bearing on family law and the working of family courts.


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