A law graduate’s guide to a great family law career
Family law. It was not the exact career path I envisioned for myself as a law student at UTS. It may not be yours either – maybe you have your sights squarely set on a top-tier firm or government role.
I get that. I dreamed of working internationally as a human rights lawyer, until I experienced family law. But if you are looking for an immensely challenging, interesting, and rewarding career, then family law could be for you.
I’d like to share with you exactly why I love working as a family lawyer and give you a few tips to help you jumpstart your law career, whether you elect to pursue family law or not.
What are the benefits of a family law career?
While studying at UTS, I did some volunteer work at a community legal centre where I got a taste of criminal law, civil rights and family law. It was here that I started to realise family law was not all about reading contracts or trying to get that property deal finalised; it was about positively impacting people’s lives.
In 2012, I watched someone close to me come face-to-face with the family law system following a divorce. Through no fault of her own, she cycled through countless lawyers at the one firm who would dismiss her instructions and feelings and, at times, leave her in tears.
But there was one lawyer at the firm who was different, who genuinely cared and went above and beyond. This lawyer drastically changed my perspective on the impact family lawyers can have on their client’s lives. I could see how important it was for family lawyers to be caring and compassionate, and what a profound difference that can make to not only client’s lives but also their children’s lives, who are typically the ones most affected by divorce.
That personal experience inspired me to help people who are experiencing these emotional and trying situations, and that is what I have been doing for the past seven years (currently at Nolan Lawyers in Sydney). I know there is no other area of law that could give me such a high level of satisfaction.
These are a few of the main reasons why I think family law is such an amazing and rewarding career choice:
1. A powerful and positive impact
Divorce proceedings are never easy, and the role you play either helps, hinders or harms those involved. As a good family lawyer, you can help families find positive outcomes in their most challenging times and make a lasting impact on their lives and their children’s lives.
2. Challenging work
Family law cases are complex and filled with many moving parts and intricate details. Each one is totally unique, so you are constantly presented with new challenges. Each new family you help gives you a fresh opportunity to problem solve and find bespoke solutions.
3. The chance to use your head and your heart
While your clients will rely on you to help them navigate the tricky legalities, they will also lean on you for emotional support. If you enjoy utilising this unique combination of head and heart, family law is a great fit.
How do I know if family law is right for me?
Along the way, I have found there are a few key skills that make an outstanding family lawyer.
Great family lawyers are:
- Fantastic communicators
- Trustworthy and reliable (confidentiality is paramount)
- Empathetic and compassionate (clients have excellent ‘genuine-o meters’)
- Emotionally intelligent
- Excellent organisers and time-managers
- Good negotiators
- Strategic thinkers
- Patient and good listeners
What are my 5 biggest career tips for law students?
No matter which area of law you choose, the next five tips are my takeaways that will help you get your foot in the door of a great law career when you graduate.
1.Remain open early on
When you are just starting out, try not to be too picky about the area of law in which you work. Cast your net widely to gain as much experience as you can. This will help you find that right fit for you.
2. Be prepared to start from the bottom
Don’t be overly concerned about the first job you get – they are all stepping stones. I started out as a Law Clerk/Receptionist in personal injury claims, a far cry from Nolan Lawyer’s Senior Family Law Associate.
I encourage you to not despise the days of small beginnings, embrace the season you are in and learn as much as you can from each role. Remember, you are building a reputation and you want to maintain your connections in the legal profession.
3. If you don’t like it, move on
After some time, you might find you are not enjoying a particular area of law. If so, get out and try something else. Otherwise, you might run the risk of pigeonholing yourself.
Volunteering at a legal centre helped me gain a broad range of experience, but it also gave me the chance to network and make connections. Both are key for your career path.
5. If you can’t get experience, get educated
While experience trumps education in my view, sometimes it is difficult to get a start. In the meantime, consider enrolling in some extra courses that will look great on your CV.
I hope this article has given you an insight into what makes family law such a rewarding career and provided you with some useful tips on how to jumpstart your law career.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
Senior Associate | Nolan Lawyers
Kristina is an experienced and professional Senior Associate with an empathetic, strategic, and pragmatic approach to her Family Law practice. She is committed to providing expert guidance and representation whilst ensuring her clients feel heard, understood, and empowered at each stage of their family law matter.