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.
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, family 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 partieis in care proceedings, for example, acting on behalf of parents or children or Local Authorities.
What skills are required?
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.
The Law Society – Has an accredited panel of solicitors specialising in family law.
Resolution – Join this national organisation of family lawyers.
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