This month’s featured blog post comes from Clayton Miller, a founding member of KMJ Solicitors who specialise in family law. To learn more about their work and what they do, visit their website
Whether you’ve just graduated from law school or you’re looking to change areas, you might be thinking of going into family law. More than just dividing up furniture, a solicitor in family law can be involved in some of the most complex and emotional cases imaginable.
Family law solicitors work with clients during some of the most emotional moments of their lives: marriage, civil partnership and divorce. Clients can be difficult, but that makes an empathetic, well-trained and experienced family law solicitor all the more important. Here’s a rundown of the ups and downs you can expect if you choose a career in family law.
Long hours in the courtroom
If you decide to become a solicitor in family law, then expect to spend long hours in the courtroom. Cases could involve defending a victim of domestic abuse, or a child abduction case, or an argument over a will by relatives of the deceased, or a fight over who keeps the yacht. Court is not as exciting or dramatic as TV programs would lead you to believe. Much time is spent waiting or negotiating with the other side.
Although family law is a very people-orientated area of law, with a lot of time spent in the courtroom and a lot of change day-to-day, there’s also a lot of paperwork. With new areas of family law opening up and developing, like cohabitation agreements and same-sex marriages, people have never needed family law solicitors who excel in their field as much as now.
If you’re a law student in London, try this: make a list of the best commercial lawyers you know in London, and then make a list of the best family law solicitors in London. If you’re somewhere else, then change this to your city. Which list is longer? Although family law doesn’t suit everyone, it can be a chance to make a real difference and make a name for yourself in law while you’re at it.
Emotional work, but rewarding work
In the midst of their disintegrating marriage, or negotiating the future of their children, it is highly unlikely that your clients will be at their best or most rational when you’re in contact with them. As a solicitor in family law, you will need a cool head and a sympathetic ear, while also knowing what’s best for your client legally and financially. Tensions and emotions can run high in a family law solicitor’s office. If you’re setting up an office in a family law firm, consider adding a child’s play area and rooms suitable for roundtable meetings with several parties.
If you enjoy counselling, then becoming a solicitor in family law could definitely be for you. Expect to spend a lot of your time advising people on the next step in what’s best for them and their children, and also mediating between them and their spouse in divorce battles. Many family lawyers undertake additional training to become a family mediator. A top tip for working within a family law firm would be, make sure that you don’t burn out; dealing with disintegrating relationships every day can test your faith in human nature more than most other areas of law. But the rewards can be so much greater.
Become an expert in your field
Family law isn’t a career that many solicitors choose to specialise in, so if you really dedicate yourself to your practice, you can become one of the best London divorce solicitors with a reputation that precedes you.
Equally, if you become an expert, it opens more windows of opportunity to you, like working in non-profit legal service organisations. Working in a non-profit organisation, you will be representing low-income clients in various family law matters, and you will find yourself working on cases such as legal representation for children who have been neglected or abused. If you have a strong desire to give back, this can be highly rewarding, altruistic work. While draining, if you entered law hoping to help people and make a real difference in people’s lives, look no further than becoming a solicitor in family law.
If you decide that family law is for you, start by seeking out the best family law solicitor in London, or wherever you’re based, and find out about internships and work experience. Family law is something that you either love or hate, so make sure you know it’s for you before committing to it. Alternatively, try and find some court cases where litigation is open to the public so that you can sit in on the case and get a better understanding of what’s involved. If it is for you, then you have a challenging and rewarding career ahead of you.
Clayton Miller is a founding member of KMJ Solicitors — a highly sought after family law firm in London. Legal 500 describes Clayton as being especially able to “assimilate and master the details of complex financial cases and keep on top of them”. Clayton is dual qualified in both Australia and the UK and is a member of the dual-qualified Family Lawyers and International Bar Association. He has over fifteen years of experience as a family law specialist, including divorce and separation as well as offshore trusts, prenuptial agreements and cohabitation law.
I think the article makes an interesting point about how being a family law solicitor is emotional work, but is also very rewarding. I can see why that would be because of the stress and emotions that are factored into each specific case a solicitor works with. I know that if I needed a family law solicitor for a case of mine, I’d want one that can work through the emotions to bring stability and rationality to my case for the best possible outcome for me.
Thank you for your comment, and I am glad you found this to be of interest. Particularly as the area of family law has been gaining more calls for reform, it will be interesting to see how family law practitioners can adapt to balancing how sensitive this area of law is alongside reforms that make it sometimes difficult to practice.