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oh yes i have prepared for two child protection trials. the paperwork was massive, and obviously as the articling student i was tasked with combing over EVERY single access notes.  i recall the notes alone were about 1000+ pages.  Burned the midnight oil on many nights.  Although some of the notes can be quite entertaining, in a very.... sort of sad and twisted way.. if you know what i mean.

 

although it may be an anomaly, the two clients for the two different trials, they were quite pleasant to deal with, as opposed to a lot of other domestic files I have participated in.  Perhaps this is not the norm and where I may have gotten the idea that Child Protection is not as stressful as it really is.

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Clueless 0L question but is it possible to only handle family cases that involve asset division, no custody stuff, if you also do other types of law like immigration/wills & estates?

 

Not only possible but fairly common. Lots of older people who no longer have kids living at home or who never had children get divorced. Another class of people can resolve custody issues through mediation. 

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Can any family lawyer take on a child protection case, or do you have to have a special designation? A family lawyer I work with is currently working toward some sort of designation (I don't know the details), and my understanding was that this was mandatory. I'm in SW Ont.

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Can any family lawyer take on a child protection case, or do you have to have a special designation? A family lawyer I work with is currently working toward some sort of designation (I don't know the details), and my understanding was that this was mandatory. I'm in SW Ont.

 

I don't practice family, but based on my own area of practice I strongly suspect you're talking about Legal Aid. The issue is very simple. Anyone who is licensed to practice law can, by default, do just about anything. You don't even have to be a family lawyer. I could take a child protection case tomorrow if I wanted to (not that I ever would) and it isn't as though any lawyer is normally restricted to specific areas of practice. However, if you want to work for legal aid and accept clients that are legally aided, you need to be qualified in the appropriate panel(s). I would imagine that quite a lot of child protection is done through legal aid, so being empaneled by LAO (Legal Aid Ontario) would be a de facto requirement to take any such file.

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Not only possible but fairly common. Lots of older people who no longer have kids living at home or who never had children get divorced. Another class of people can resolve custody issues through mediation. 

 

Thank you! This is great to know.

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Can any family lawyer take on a child protection case, or do you have to have a special designation? A family lawyer I work with is currently working toward some sort of designation (I don't know the details), and my understanding was that this was mandatory. I'm in SW Ont.

 

From what I understand, family lawyers doing Legal Aid files have to be empaneled to do domestic files; you have to be empaneled separately for child protection files.  Only OCL files (files where you represented the child/children) require a lawyer to be specifically designated.

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Thanks, Diplock and benzxc (and artsydork, as always!). It makes sense that this lawyer is hoping to be empaneled separately for child protection files (they are already doing family files through LAO). This lawyer is working with a mentor, which I thought was a necessary step toward empanelment, but they may be doing this voluntarily in order to build up enough hours and doc prep experience to qualify for the empanelment. Good to know! This is definitely something I plan to do.

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What does a lawyer have to do to be empaneled by OCL? Child protection? Are there particular courses I should be looking for within the law school, or are these separate qualifications? 

I am a late career social worker/social and health policy specialist now going to law school, and have just been accepted to OCL's panel of investigators. Am also a mediator. How much of that training and experience will qualify me for these specializations in family law?

Thanks

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What does a lawyer have to do to be empaneled by OCL? Child protection? Are there particular courses I should be looking for within the law school, or are these separate qualifications? 

I am a late career social worker/social and health policy specialist now going to law school, and have just been accepted to OCL's panel of investigators. Am also a mediator. How much of that training and experience will qualify me for these specializations in family law?

Thanks

 

I'm going to avoid making any absolute statements, and suggest that you go straight to the source here:

 

http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/info/

 

Again, I practice criminal, rather than family law. But I've never seen any legal aid qualification that actually references coursework and I'd be shocked if it ever happened. What they require is either experience in the area or some combination of the promise to get experience and/or training and mentorship by someone who has experience.

 

The requirements as written are a bit misleading. I think criminal law requires (technically) two years of experience already doing criminal law. So in theory, what you're supposed to do is work for private clients, gain experience, and then legal aid will allow you to accept certificates. Of course that's ass backwards and not how it works in practice. New lawyers do legal aid, while experienced lawyers compete for better paying private clients. Realistically, you just end up promising legal aid that you'll take continuing professional development in the area (a requirement of your license anyway) and get an appropriate mentor.

 

Now the reason I'm hedging a bit is that there are more specialized Legal Aid panels that may require more. For example, in criminal defence we have Extremely Serious Matters - your murders, terrorism charges, etc. You need special empanelment to take those certificates, with x years of experience, doing jury trials, etc. Maybe child protection is the same. I'm sure it'll be on the site linked - I just can't be bothered looking it up for you.

 

Anyway, that's the theory. Just giving you the assurance, up front, that you don't need to worry about any of this when making course selection.

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I'm going to avoid making any absolute statements, and suggest that you go straight to the source here:

 

http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/info/

 

Again, I practice criminal, rather than family law. But I've never seen any legal aid qualification that actually references coursework and I'd be shocked if it ever happened. What they require is either experience in the area or some combination of the promise to get experience and/or training and mentorship by someone who has experience.

 

The requirements as written are a bit misleading. I think criminal law requires (technically) two years of experience already doing criminal law. So in theory, what you're supposed to do is work for private clients, gain experience, and then legal aid will allow you to accept certificates. Of course that's ass backwards and not how it works in practice. New lawyers do legal aid, while experienced lawyers compete for better paying private clients. Realistically, you just end up promising legal aid that you'll take continuing professional development in the area (a requirement of your license anyway) and get an appropriate mentor.

 

Now the reason I'm hedging a bit is that there are more specialized Legal Aid panels that may require more. For example, in criminal defence we have Extremely Serious Matters - your murders, terrorism charges, etc. You need special empanelment to take those certificates, with x years of experience, doing jury trials, etc. Maybe child protection is the same. I'm sure it'll be on the site linked - I just can't be bothered looking it up for you.

 

Anyway, that's the theory. Just giving you the assurance, up front, that you don't need to worry about any of this when making course selection.

 

 

Great. No decisions to be made yet, but the legal aid site has more detail. It is not surprising or overwhelming looking, either. They mention family law "related" training and experience, without details. Whether years of working as a social worker in child protection and OCL will matter to this process will be something I will tackle when the time comes. Thanks. 

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You can't become an OCL without extensive training, peer referrals and family law experience. OCLs aren't paid by Legal Aid. OCL applications do want additional courses.

 

LAO has different standards depending on where you are practicing. Getting empaneled in the Ottawa region, as I have learned, is much more onerous than it was in the London area. You need to sign a "Mentor" agreement with someone with at least 10 years experience if you're missing the requisite knowledge-base. You also have to devote 6 hours of professional training in the practice area per year, and undertake to do X amount of files. New members may also be assigned (rather useless) CPD sessions to attend/view in order to bring the lawyer up to speed.

 

Child protection panel requires admittance to the family panel. Then you can get added. Again, if missing experience, just tack it on to your mentor agreement. Conversely, if you're in association or in a small firm, you may be able to bypass the agreement. There aren't really any courses to take in Child Protection - most schools don't really offer it.

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I'm left a tad curious, what exactly makes working family law satisfying? A few of you note issues regarding the emotional toll it takes and generally reasons why a person wouldn't want to get involved, but what satisfaction do you (those who work in the field) take from family law?

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I'm left a tad curious, what exactly makes working family law satisfying? A few of you note issues regarding the emotional toll it takes and generally reasons why a person wouldn't want to get involved, but what satisfaction do you (those who work in the field) take from family law?

 

From what little experience I have as an articling student, I can say that it is absolutely the case that the emotional toll and just general stress level and intensity the client's put on you is quite hard to deal with.  And that this would totally be a reason(s) why someone would want to steer away from family law.  And many do.  Many lawyers I have spoken to say they left family law because of the intensity of the files, the hatred between the parties, and the very personal and emotional issues being dealt with.  

 

But my general impression (and satisfaction) is when we do a motion, or a trial, and afterwards we get for our clients what they want (even if partially) and how relieved and grateful clients can be at the end of it all.  I imagine most lawyers, irrespective of area of practice feel this way.  But I feel family law is satisfying in this aspect because the issues being litigated are so personal, sometimes I can even relate to them (only sometimes though).  And as someone who deals with a lot of clients in poverty, it is particularly satisfying when clients get their act together at the end of the day (although not strictly related to our work but still satisfying to see nevertheless)

Edited by benzxc

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Posted (edited)

I have a general practice that includes family litigation.

1. What the starting salaries appear to be in the Toronto market,
No clue, not an employee and not in Toronto.

2. Courses to take after first year of law school,
I took zero courses that related to family law. Learned it all after I was called. I guess the family law course would be helpful, plus taking a clinical course. Take the trial advocacy and negotiation course.

3. how to gain experience in this area,
A clinical course or a summer job

4. whether there are family law firms hiring for the OCI season,
Probably

5. what hiring firms look for in candidates
If you can't get in through connections, all firms hire on "fit". "Fit" is mostly, "do we like you?"

6. and lastly, why many of the family law boutiques only appear to hire females?
Small sample size? Only seeing the firms advertising to students? Tons of firms I know of have men in them.

7. When I visit the websites of many of these family law firms, their personnel is all women. So, I am wondering how hard it is to break into the field as a male.
I'm a guy and I'm practicing it. No difficulty in breaking in.

8. Other than Introductory Family Law in second year, are there any other courses that people here recommend.
See above.

9. Also, what are the working conditions of family lawyers like as opposed to other areas such as criminal, immigration and estate lawyers?
It's civil litigation. No difference from any other civil litigation. Differs significantly from criminal, which will always be its own thing.

I'll echo a lot of other people here. You get a lot of people in crisis who are driven by emotions more than dollars and cents. I represented Mom on a case where Dad wanted to force Mom to stay in my city even though Dad had already moved away (a "mobility" application). Dad was clearly a difficult client and has had five lawyers in the time I represented Mom. For a while he self-represented (while sending me copies of pay stubs showing he had earned more than I did in a whole year by May, pleading poverty), where he put into an affidavit his legal bills. Apparently he had spent $100K on the application and subsequent abandoned appeal. Going off the bills he provided he also spent at least $10K to not to pay $5K in s.7 expenses.

Legal Aid is a good way to get a lot of a certain kind of family law, but:

* It pays badly.
* Difficult clients who don't appreciate your time, though telling them that you're gone as soon as the hours are used up does help.
* Legal Aid clients are rarely repeat customers and don't give good referrals (... because they can't afford it, that's why they are on legal aid).
* At least in my province the Legal Aid referrals office plays favourites, so I only get sent very difficult files. Like out of town high conflict files or something. High conflict files are a huge time sink, because things that would have gone by consent (like a parenting order where there's no family violence and Dad smartly moved out before things got too bad) turn into two day hearings because Mom wants to prevent Dad from having any parenting time.

There's also a lot of client management in family. Files rarely go to trial so a lot of garbage gets said in affidavits when it shouldn't be. In order to get an ex parte protection order one party will often highly exaggerate even tiny conflicts from many years ago. Saying that a fight where voices weren't even raised over where to go for ramen caused you livelong trauma might get you that order (and thereby sole use of the family house) but it completely destroys your credibility if you have one of those rare family matters that goes to trial.

Edited by AnonLaw

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Maybe it's because I treat my certificate clients as if I was their private lawyer, many of my certificate clients refer me to their family and friends. I've even got cash clients through my certificate clients...

 

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I'm a male and I have male and female clients. Maybe 60% males.

There's a lot of "yes, but that's the rules" type advice given to both men and women.

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I am female and I do a fair bit of child protection work. I have more mothers than fathers, but I do sometimes represent fathers. I do feel that there is a bit of bias against a father wanting to have sole custody of his child/ren as opposed to whatever plan the Agency has in mind, but this has been improving. I am from a very matriarchal family myself so I have had to adjust my own thinking. There are men practicing in this area, but it's definitely female-dominated. 

I have many repeat customers in this area - they will have another child and the cycle starts again, or the temporary order runs out and the Agency revives the proceedings. I also get many referrals from these clients. Because I also practice criminal law, there is a lot of spill-over with clients having both child protection and criminal matters, and the two areas of practice work really well together. I find that I can only do a limited amount of child protection work before I burn out or get fed up.

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