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What are the pros and cons of being a family lawyer?
First, you will really get to know your relatives. That's because they will talk to you about delicate family issues more than your immediate family -- like who's having an affair, who's the crazy uncle, where the dead bodies are, etc.
So yeah, that's both a pro and a con. After that, they kind of line up like this:
Pro 1: Referrals
Statistically, it's not that hard to find clients because half the people you know will get a divorce. Just do a good job, and they will come.
And family clients, who entrust their most important concerns to their lawyers, often turn to them for other legal services. So even if you don't practice outside of family law, you can build a referral network by sending out cases to lawyers who do personal injury, criminal, medical malpractice, and other work.
Pro 2: Practice Variety
Family lawyers often say they enjoy the variety of their practice because the issues go beyond custody disputes and community property.
It can be more like a general practice with cross-overs into property law, criminal law, constitutional law and even probate. You may start by filing a petition in family court, spend a day in domestic violence, wend your way through juvenile proceedings, and end up in probate court.
Pro 3: Career Satisfaction
People find career satisfaction in many ways. You may value money, peer approval, community recognition or simply doing good.
Family law, unlike some practice areas, offers all these rewards. Financially, a family lawyer can do as well as other billable-hour attorneys -- let's say, $400 an hour? And in the colloquial community of family lawyers, peer approval is almost necessary to survive.
Being of value to society and doing good is also within the family lawyer's grasp, as more practitioners embrace collaborative family law -- focusing on helping families through divorce amicably.
Con 1 Emotional
Perhaps more than any other field, family law is inherently emotional because the cases are about people's biggest life choices and corresponding feelings of failure.
While it helps to be empathetic, it can also be hard professionally to be objective in the break-up of a family. You will have more than one client break down in tears as you advise them of legal realities.
Con 2: Stressful
Unfortunately, the emotional nature of family law can spill over into even more stressful areas. More than a few family cases have turned into criminal cases, including the murders of family law attorneys.
Criminal lawyers, who see the blood and guts all the time, develop tough skins to deal with criminal behavior. Family lawyers, on the other hand, are more likely to take their clients' pains and stresses personally.
Con 3: Addiction
Alcohol and other addictions too often become pseudo-salves for stressed-out attorneys. It's not an occupational hazard for family lawyers, but it is a problem in a significant number of cases.
"At some point in your career, you will probably encounter another lawyer whose addiction problems impair their ability to practice," according to Family Lawyer Magazine.
Because family lawyers often work alone or in small firms, isolation and addiction problems may follow.