Becoming a Divorce Lawyer: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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Get the truth about a divorce lawyer's salary, education and licensing requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a divorce lawyer.
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A Divorce Lawyer Career: Pros and Cons

To become a divorce lawyer, you must go to law school and pass a state bar exam, just as any other lawyer. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of this career.

Pros of a Divorce Lawyer Career
High salary (median earning of $114,970 for all lawyers as of May 2014)*
Can choose to work for a large practice or open your own firm*
Opportunity to help clients resolve family issues*
Legal support staff assists with day-to-day tasks*

Cons of a Divorce Lawyer Career
Undergraduate and graduate school can take more than seven years*
Schooling is expensive (it is common for graduates to be more than $100,000 in debt due to student loans) **
Job availability is greatly affected by economy*
Trial pressure can be high*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **American Bar Association.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Also called divorce attorneys or family practice lawyers, divorce lawyers work in civil law. They advise and legally advocate for clients who are seeking to end their marriages and may also work on cases involving child custody, wills, trusts, leases and more.

The work of a divorce lawyer centers on divorce, legal separation and marriage annulment. Attorneys must help couples divide benefits, property and debt. If your client has children, you'll need to designate child support, legal custody and parental visits. These issues can be stressful and your clients may be emotional. You'll need to spend a great deal of time researching and gathering evidence for your cases. You must pay close attention to detail since your client will likely have a lot at stake in their case. Divorce lawyers handle a large amount of paperwork and file documents with the courts. Depending on your location, you may need a car and valid driver's license to deliver items and meet with clients.

Job Growth and Salary

The BLS does not provide specific data for family lawyers, and data from other sites varies greatly with regard to pay and growth potential. The BLS reported that employment of attorneys in general could grow by 6% from 2014-2024, which is about as fast as the average for all jobs. You should expect keen competition since the number of students completing law school is increasing.

The BLS reported a median salary of $114,970 for all lawyers as of May 2014, with the bottom 10% earning $55,400. Income varies based on the position you hold and the amount of experience you possess. If you own your own practice, it's likely that you'll earn less than someone working in a law firm as a partner.

What are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

To become a divorce lawyer, you'll need at least seven years of postsecondary education. There is no required major for undergraduate studies, according to The State Bar of California. However, the BLS reports that you will benefit from coursework in public speaking, philosophy, political science and English. Your next step is to attend law school. Admission is competitive and depends on your undergraduate school and grades, experience and in some cases, an interview. You'll also need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which is required by all schools approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Law school generally takes around three years to complete. You'll take courses in constitutional law, contracts, ethics, procedures and legal writing. You'll also develop a specialized knowledge base to prepare you for a career in divorce law. Prospective divorce lawyers can take courses in family law and learn about family dysfunction, child custody and property rights. Students also have the opportunity to participate in legal clinics and practice trials to develop their practical skills.

Licensure and Essential Qualifications

The BLS reports that you need to be admitted to your state bar in order to practice divorce law. You'll need to pass the state bar exam, and in many cases, you'll also have to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. You must pass the bar in every state in which you plan to practice. To be a divorce lawyer, you'll need to develop strong writing, research and speaking skills.

What Employers Are Looking For

While employers may not post listings for divorce lawyers specifically, many seek family practice associates or attorneys. These employers wanted experienced divorce lawyers who could also perform other duties, such as bankruptcy law. Applicants in some jobs were expected to travel. Available job postings from March 2012 included the following:

  • A small law firm in Maryland seeks a family practice lawyer with five or more years of divorce, child custody, criminal defense and civil litigation experience to join their firm. Their ideal applicant will be licensed in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia.
  • A Chicago-based law firm seeks an attorney to represent clients in divorce and bankruptcy cases. Candidates must have experience in legal document writing, be willing to travel and feel comfortable appearing in court.
  • In Pennsylvania, a growing law office is looking for attorneys who can handle family law matters as well as collection, personal injury and workers compensation cases. Applicants must be motivated, aggressive and able to handle their own caseload.
  • A suburban law firm in Texas is seeking an attorney with two to five years of experience to handle business, collections and civil litigation, including family matters. Candidates must be outgoing and dedicated to advancing their careers at the practice.

How to Beat the Competition

Consider Relocation

One way you can set yourself apart from the rest of the field is to be flexible about where you live and work. The BLS reports that willingness to relocate may help you stand out among the competition. The drawback to this option is that you will need to become licensed in more than one location. This can be challenging, since it will likely require you to pass multiple bar exams. However, you'll increase your appeal to employers, if you possess a license to practice in their location.

Get Specialized

Divorce lawyers should become specialized in civil law. You can study this field in law school or intern with a lawyer who handles divorce cases. The BLS reports that the experience you acquire through part-time work with a law firm can be valuable for boosting your resume or securing a job after graduation. By gaining experience in handling divorce and other civil matters, you can set yourself apart from competitors who may have spent time working in other areas.

Other Careers to Consider

Paralegal

If you'd like to work in law, but extensive schooling doesn't appeal to you, consider a career as a paralegal. Also known as legal assistants, paralegals assist lawyers in preparing closing arguments, legal briefs, contracts and more. They assist attorneys with research and complete legal tasks as delegated by licensed attorneys. Most paralegals earn an associate's degree in paralegal studies. You may also choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in another field and obtain a paralegal certificate. Some employers train their paralegals on the job.

Mediator

If you still want to earn a law degree, but would rather avoid being in court, you might consider a career as a mediator. Mediators commonly have a law degree, and they spend their time resolving disputes between parties outside of court. Mediators don't make final decisions on disagreements, but they offer ideas or options for resolution. The BLS reported that arbitrators, mediators and conciliators could expect 15% employment growth from 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Legal Studies
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal

Which subject are you interested in?

Widener University

  • Dual Master of Jurisprudence in Corporate and Business Law / Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
  • Master of Public Administration - Government and Policy

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Legal Studies
  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Paralegal

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Legal Secretary

What is your highest level of education?

Argosy University

  • Compliance (ML)
  • Bachelor - Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?