What is family law?
Family law is made up of three main areas of work: matrimonial, finance and child law. Many lawyers choose to specialise in either matrimonial law or child law, whilst others maintain a mixed client base. It can also cover domestic violence, guardianship, child abuse and neglect. Other matters might include inheritance law, retirements, pension and other benefits.
What does a family lawyer do?
Family lawyers act on matters such as divorce and separation, child contact and adoption, Local Authority care orders and financial settlements.
When acting for a client seeking a divorce, lawyers are engaged in taking initial details, gathering evidence including financial evidence, preparing the necessary documentation, negotiating settlements and contact or residency for children, referring to mediation and advocating for the client in hearings. The work may also include instructing Counsel and attending Counsel at court. Child law lawyers may also represent parties in care proceedings, for example, acting on behalf of parents or children or Local Authorities.
They can also advise with pre-nuptial agreements before marriage to protect someone's financial interest, advise on the grounds of divorce or civil partnership dissolution. Some family lawyers can specialise in adoption, paternity, reproductive rights, emancipation and other matters not associated with divorce. They are also responsible for overseeing family properties, monitoring mediation meetings and offering legal advice.
Most lawyers have expertise in some practice areas, including housing law, meditation and collaboration law and immigration and asylum law.
Study family law
If you qualify through the SQE, you will also need to complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). To prepare for the SQE, we recommend studying one of our SQE courses, which have been designed to give you the knowledge and skills for a successful career as a solicitor.
If you’re eligible to study the LPC, you will need to get a two-year training contract with a law firm. To find out what route is right for you, see our Becoming a Solicitor page.
Once you complete your two-year training contract or QWE, you can apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to be admitted as a solicitor.
To become a barrister, you will need to have completed an undergraduate law degree, or if you are a non-law graduate, a conversion course, before completing the Bar Practice Course (BPC). You will then need to secure pupillage.
You can also study a Master of Law (LLM) in Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution or International Arbitration to give you the knowledge and skills to move into this sector.
How to become a family lawyer?
As this is a very people-focused area of law, a non-judgmental attitude and genuine interest and care about the lives of others is vital. Family lawyers need to be able to inspire trust and show empathy, whilst remaining detached and remembering that the best way to help a client is by being an effective lawyer – not a counsellor or a social worker (other are better placed to fulfil those roles).
Excellent interviewing skills are needed and the ability to calm angry, upset or frightened clients whilst extracting the important pieces of information from them, is a skill that needs constant development. Negotiating with the other side is a key part of the job and a practical approach with good judgement (based on a firm grasp of family law) will go far.
Gaining work experience in family law
Gaining work experience at the local firm or Citizens Advise Bureau is the perfect way to get a taste for family law. Our Employability Service also offers support with this during your studies. The experience of working with real clients on a placement is invaluable. We work with employers to organise work experience opportunities nationally that could prove valuable in furthering your career.
We can also help you to get external placements in a range of not-for-profit organisations, providing members of the public with free legal advice and representation.
What is a family lawyer salary?
A newly qualified solicitor in a firm outside of the city or smaller family law practice may expect to earn around £20,000 to £40,000. An average family law solicitor salary in London is anything from £25,000 to £70,000 based on five years’ experience according to Reed.com. For those with over ten years' experience, earnings can range from £40,000 to £90,000. Those based in London and bigger cities will often earn more too.
Useful information on family law
The Law Society – Has an accredited panel of solicitors specialising in family law.
Resolution – Join this national organisation of family lawyers.
Keep up with family and child law issues and news through: