When thinking about the family law field, and whether you want to start your own law firm, it is important to consider your practice area or “niche”. Many new attorneys don’t know what practice area they will want to join when they come out of law school. That is understandable because law school teaches you how to “think like a lawyer” and not how to practice law. When I was in law school, I remember thinking “what does practicing law actually mean?” If you think about, the phrase “practicing law” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
For example, in law school, your professors teach you the substantive area of law – i.e. family law, trust and estates, evidence, criminal law, environmental law, etc. However, they don’t tell you how to use that knowledge to help a client who has a child custody problem.
After law school, you quickly that “practicing law” means getting contacted by a client, signing him or her up with a legal services agreement, negotiating payment (usually a retainer), and filing the initial paperwork necessary to get the process that person wanted started. In the child custody arena, the lawyer may need to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Motion to Modify Child Custody.
If you are an attorney coming out of law school who will be joining a small to medium size firm, the law firm partners are going to expect you to have some level of client contact and eventually start taking your own cases. Many young attorneys end up practicing in field like family law and/or criminal law because the client base is always there and it is a good way to get clients so that you can quickly generate billable hours.
So there is your niche area. But it doesn’t stop there. If you want to be good at anything – for instance, fly fishing – you need to practice. You need to hone your skills. You need to be very good at what you do and develop nuance. Don’t ever under estimate this trait when developing your niche area.
If you do choose family law, good for you. You are likely to end up with a lot of clients who take your advice to heart. You are also going to have clients who fight over their children and want custody of them. If you can handle the stress created by that situation and you truly want to help families, family law may be for you.
Once you’ve chosen (or fallen into) your niche area, you can then think about obtaining clients and developing your practice in family law. You can do this at a firm or by starting your own law firm. Either way, developing your own child custody or family law niche area can be an extremely fulfilling area of the practice of law.
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