Family law tends to be concentrated at the high street end of the legal profession, with the majority of family lawyers dealing with matters for both private or Legal Services Commission-funded (legal aid) clients, where there is probably one large asset (a house), a couple of children, and warring parents.
Family law is divided up into sectors – divorce and ancillary relief (the latter is the financial aspects of divorce – who gets what), children work (contact, residence and restrictions on living arrangements) and injunctions for domestic violence.
If you are thinking of doing family law at the higher end of the scale, the majority of the work is ancillary relief – who gets what from the money put together in the marriage. At the lower end, it is likely to be a mix of children and domestic violence with straightforward divorces involving no finance.
Family lawyers tend to be a breed unto themselves. There can be a lot of “my client says your client smells, and I think so too”, and rather a lot of passion involved in the efforts to obtain the best outcome. It can be very stressful work, with stressed out clients, busy courts, lots of paperwork to keep on top of, and billing can take over 12 months to bring in for larger cases. Salaries in family law tend to be lower than for other areas of law at comparable levels of experience.
Solicitors can have up to around 50 cases ongoing at any time, depending on the size of the files. If you dont like advocacy by the way, this is not a field to get into – family lawyers have to constantly do this, even if not in court you are often negotiating with the other side, the courts and various institutions to get the best result for your client… Clients very often appear to want a “Rottweiler” to represent them.
The Legal Services Commission – The Legal Aid Board – have gradually reduced what work there was at the bottom end of the market, and a lot of firms have pulled out of the work completely, having experienced working for £10 per hour for slightly too long. The majority of work these days is privately funded.