If you fancy a career as an attorney at some point down the line, you must determine the area of expertise you prefer. Remember, no attorney is capable of representing every aspect of law. Each specialty has specific education parameters that must be met; in fact, practicing lawyers soon discover that education is only the beginning of becoming a competent attorney.
It's imperative that a prospective divorce lawyer not only learn the substantive practice areas that make up the world of divorce law, but also have the type of personality that can handle their clients during this emotional time. Empathy is the key here.
What It Takes and What Divorce Lawyer's Do
Dramatic representations of attorneys slough over daily routines, education requirements, and the mandatory ethical responsibilities a lawyer has to each client.
Select a college that is on the U.S. Department of Education Regional and National Accreditation list. Pro tips, you need to be certain that it offers a well-rounded Liberal Arts program--- with classes in pre-legal or paralegal studies. You should also focus on classes in economics, history, social sciences, writing, cultural diversity, public speaking and political science.
Your day begins early and ends late. Divorce lawyers work an average of 12 -15 hours a day with occasional weekends off and vacations every other year.
The divorce lawyer routine activities include:
• Researching everything applicable to each of your cases - including financial documents, statements by professional and lay witnesses, state investigations and psychologists opinions
• Writing letters, pleadings and - in some jurisdictions - dispositions
• Interaction with Judges, opposing counsel, your office staff, your partners, your clients and client's family members
• Negotiating and mediating solutions with opposition, attending meetings, attending court hearings
• Solving office issues, dealing with accountants, bank issues, and speaking to potential clients
You are mandated to treat your client and his/her case in an ethical manner. Promising a client the impossible or overcharging for his time is not "ethical" behavior.
There are two stages during the process of becoming a divorce lawyer that require credentialing and a third after you are licensed.
In applying for Law School, one must present the following credentials for consideration:
• Transcripts from any and all institutions where you took any class - with or without credit
• Names and addresses of all persons who agree to provide letters of recommendation
• List of all law schools where application is intended
• Online evaluation requests to provide authorization to third parties
• Additional requirements of law schools where application is made
Credentials required for acceptance to sit for the bar exam:
Each state bar association sets its own rules in regards to the bar exam. In New York, for example, you can be admitted if you attend an out-of-state law school that is not approved by the American Bar Association and you worked in a licensed law office in the state where you attended school; or you have been admitted to the Bar in another state plus practiced a specified number of years.
Once you are admitted to the Bar, continuing legal education credits are required to maintain your license. In New York, you must complete 24-credit hours every 2 years plus 4 hours of ethics and professional behavior. You must also become Board Certified in Family Law, which requires hands-on demonstration of your abilities in eight areas of expertise.
Traits Required by a Divorce Attorney
Being licensed in the practice of law is not enough. Attorneys meet people from every walk of life--- from every economic situation and every religious belief.
Clients and their family members are angry, frustrated and frightened. They don't know what to expect from the legal system. They arrive with preconceived notions of what is and is not important to their case. They usually receive their first legal advice from a friend, neighbor, coworker or family member - not attorneys.
Divorce attorneys need personalities that incorporate:
• Empathy but not sympathy
• Superior listening skills in order to cull the wheat from the chaff in their position
• Patience to cope with emotional outbursts and unreasonable demands
• Communication skills to plead their case and present the best evidence
• Toughness to fight for your client's best interest
• Fearlessness in instances that turn violent
• Determination in mediation
• Establishing realistic expectations for your client
Divorce attorneys are more frequently the targets of violence from the client's partner than any other legal representative. Divorce attorneys have been known to work with psychologists, police officers and state agencies. Understanding what roles other professionals play in divorce situations is essential.
Locating the Best Place to Work
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports that the top three locations to obtain employment as a family law attorney are:
• New York - New York City/White Plains - trending approximately 2 points higher than the national average
• California - Los Angeles/Long Beach - trending slightly above average for opportunities
• Florida - Miami and Ft. Lauderdale - slightly over the national average
Yet, the competition for employment in each of these states is considerably higher than the less competitive areas. As per statistics, for every 12.55 job applicants, 1.55 applicants are hired. It's for fact that demonstrating the ability and willingness to be a team player, cooperate with staff, excel at leadership skills, implement special seminars, work with advocate groups and be involved in community activities add to your desirability for employment.
Often, new attorneys have elevated income expectations. Graduating from Law School, passing the Bar and being certified as a Family Law specialist is only the beginning of learning to be a capable divorce lawyer.
Young lawyers with no law office experience can anticipate making less than those who worked in a firm during school, for example.
According to Todd Spodek from Spodek Law Group, in New York City, the entry-level salary for new attorneys is usually around $38,000 a year. Top-level attorneys after several years of practice receive salaries of $103,000 per year on average. This is substantially less than the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports; but it does reflect the real world salary in today's economy.
Pros and Cons of Being a Divorce Attorney
As with every career, there are pros and cons that are rarely discussed in Law School or news articles.
• Helping families terminate residential situations in as peaceful and fair way as possible
• Protecting children from unnecessary verbal and emotional trauma by working with local agencies
• Fighting for the rights of those who have no expertise in the legal system
• Working 12 - 15 hour days
• Viewing the tragedy of divorce on the family life
• Dealing with people under emotional distress and behaving abnormally ruthless
• Being threatened by enraged spouses
• Accepting less income than anticipated
Family Law, which covers divorces, is one that can bring in enormous rewards and considerable difficulties for the attorney. Yet, overall, a career as a divorce lawyer is a valuable contribution to society.