Family Lawyer Degrees, Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for family lawyers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Family Lawyer?

Family lawyers are lawyers who specialize in matters that pertain to families. For example, they may represent someone during a divorce proceeding. They may be hired to develop a prenuptial agreement. They may also be hired to represent a couple who are in the process of adopting a child. They are lawyers who are involved in the personal matters of their clients. Like all lawyers, they need a Juris Doctor degree and they also need to pass the bar exam. Their general duties include meeting with clients and providing them with legal advice, preparing court filings on behalf of their clients, drafting contracts, and they may also represent their client during mediation or hearings related to their case.

Degree Required Juris Doctor from an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school
Education Field of Study Law
Key Responsibilities Research and analyze legal issues; interpret the law and regulations; present facts and arguments in writing and verbally; prepare legal documents for filing with courts
Licensure Every state requires lawyers to pass the state bar examination
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (all lawyers)*
Median Salary (2015) $115,820 (all lawyers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Family Lawyer?

Family lawyers counsel and represent clients in matters such as prenuptial agreements, adoptions and guardianships, child custody and visitation rights, civil unions and divorces. These issues often overlap with other areas of law, including domestic violence law, real estate law, children's rights laws, elder law and health law.

What Education and Certification Do I Need?

In addition to a bachelor's degree, you need to obtain a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree by completing a three-year program at a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). No particular undergraduate major is required for admission to law school, though courses in government, English, history and public speaking may provide a helpful background for studying law. Most law schools require you to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and submit undergraduate transcripts and recommendations. Some law schools offer a specialty in family law or in family and elder law as part of their curriculum.

To practice law, you must be admitted by the bar admission's council in each state in which you intend to practice. This usually requires passing the state's bar exam, multistate bar exam and a professional responsibility exam. A state's bar association or board of bar examiners can provide information about a state's specific requirements for practicing law. Most state bar associations also offer and require continuing education to maintain licensure.

How Much Might I Earn?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2015 median annual salary for attorneys in all specialties was $115,820 (www.bls.gov). Earnings vary based on the number of years of experience, position in the law firm, and the typical fees and salaries in your geographic location. According to the BLS, lawyers who are partners in law firms generally earn more than those who own their own practices. Because more students are graduating from law school than there are jobs available, competition for jobs is high.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Arbitrators, mediators, conciliators, paralegals and judges all perform some tasks that are similar to the work that lawyers do. Paralegals work under the supervision of lawyers, and may research matters related to a client or case or prepare documents or contracts. They need an associate's degree. A bachelor's degree is required to be an arbitrator, mediator or conciliator. These professionals meet with opposing sides in a dispute and try to negotiate a compromise to resolve the conflict. Judges may hear arguments from opposing sides in a legal matter and make a ruling regarding the dispute. They need a doctoral or professional degree, and most judges have prior experience working as a lawyer.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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