Interested In Family Law? Follow These Steps
If you want to pursue family law and child advocacy, you may want to consider what law schools you’re applying to.
Julie Ketover, a contributor at U.S. News & World Report, recently disclosed several tips on how students who are intent on pursuing family law and child advocacy can select the strongest law school for the field.
“Lawyers who practice in this area mediate, counsel and litigate a wide variety of matters in many subject areas, including estate planning, divorce, spousal support, parental rights, custody, child support, paternity, dependency, and neglect and adoption,” Ketover writes. “Such diverse and varied opportunities make family law and child advocacy attractive practice areas for prospective law school students.”
While most law schools offer some basic courses that give an overview of family law, some law schools have programs and courses dedicated to the ins-and-outs of the field.
At Columbia Law, family law courses cover topics such as “basic and advanced family law and domestic violence.” In addition, Columbia also hosts a yearly conference dedicated to topics on child and family advocacy, Ketover says.
One course on family law at Columbia examines the “evolution of legal policy toward the family in response to important social changes in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.” Additionally, the course studies evolving gender roles in families and in modern society.
Similarly, Maurer School of Law at Indiana University-Bloomington covers a wide variety of topics on divorce, same-sex marriage, abortion, gender roles and property division.
Look For Clinics In Family Law
If a law school has clinics dedicated to family law, it’s generally a strong indicator of a high quality family law education.
Randall Floyd, author at legal blog Magoosh and JD alum from the University of Denver, puts Columbia Law at the top of his list for law schools that excel in family law.
“Columbia University School of Law in New York has one of the best family law programs around,” he writes. “Not only do they offer a bunch of classes that deal with various family law subjects, they have three clinics that deal with family law issues.”
Through Columbia’s Adolescent Representation Clinic, students can represent youth and young adults ages 16 to 24 whose eligibility for foster care and related institutional settings is ending, according to Columbia Law’s website. Topics covered in the clinic include housing, income benefits and teen parenting to identity theft, financial debt and inheritance.
At NYU’s School of Law, the Family Defense Clinic takes a close look at the foster care system and the rights of underserved families.
“The Family Defense Clinic strives to protect and expand the due process rights of these families, and to advocate for the services to which they are entitled, but which they are often denied,” NYU’s website reads. “Central to the Clinic’s mission is to work through both direct representation and systemic advocacy to combat the indignity and inequality routinely experienced by parents involved with the child welfare system.”
Start in Undergrad
Ketover advises students to get a head start on their family law career by taking into consideration what they can accomplish as a prelaw undergrad.
“Consider a major or a minor in subjects like psychology or human development,” Ketover writes. “Any classes that focus on development of interpersonal skills or an understanding of how people think and operate in life will help you thrive as a family law attorney.”
Additionally, Ketover says internships and volunteer experience in the field can be substantial.
“Seek out opportunities to intern or volunteer for organizations that advocate for families or children, or look to strengthen key skills, such as counseling and oral communication,” Ketover writes. “You could look for internships in family court, for example, or for social service providers. Another option could be to shadow attorneys who practice family law.”
Since family law is constantly evolving, Ketover says students should keep up to date and “self-educate” themselves on the industry.
“Keep up with current trends in family law by reading related legal publications such as Family Law Quarterly and Family Advocate,” she writes. “As cultural norms shift and the definition of family evolves, the field also changes. It is in your interest to stay abreast of developments.”