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elliotwoods

Family Law - What you wish you knew

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Hello all, 

0L here with hopes of an acceptance to begin law school in 2021. I am an applicant with several years of work experience in family and youth services. This experience has led me to take a great interest in the area of family law, which I hope to eventually practice in (although, I am open to other practice areas as well). With several years ahead of me before beginning to practice, I am hoping to gain some wisdom/insights/things you wish you knew before you entered the field of family law. There are several very useful threads on the forum pertaining to family law, but many seem to be geared towards articling students and practicing lawyers. However, this forum is vast and I would appreciate being pointed in the direction of any useful threads I may have overlooked in my search. I am primarily interested in knowing the following, but would appreciate any related insights as well: 

 

1) Recommendations for opportunities during law school that would assist in experiencing the field as a student 

2) High-level pros/cons of family law (I have heard burnout rate can be high in this area)

3) Reality of having a positive impact on children in this field - I would be entering this field, with some hope that I could assist in lessening the impact of major disruptions in family life on children, is this approach misguided or naive?

4) Any other advice or things you wish you knew before entering the field of family law!

 

A big thank you to anyone willing to share their feedback or experiences. 

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I'm probably not the one to ask -- I only have a couple years experience in family and I washed out of solo practice... But whatever, I'll get the ball rolling.

1) Definitely do as much clinical work as possible. Client interaction is a huge component here. Other than that take property/family law courses? 

2) Pros: Can be very remunerative, but only certain types/clients (more on this later). When the clients are good, they are the best. There is a practice style (focusing on higher end separation through alt dispute resolution) that is not horribly stressful. It's a narrow enough practice that it's pretty easy to grasp the basics. There's enough work that you shouldn't need to branch out. The law is pretty progressive -- and it gets a lot of legislative attention, so it doesn't lag as far behind common sense as some areas. Cons: Almost every style of family practice is horrible -- so if you don't thread the needle you will be trapped. I've never met worse lawyers than some of the family lawyers I went up against. They don't know the law, they don't want to know it, they just want to look like they are fighting for their client, so they are fighting you for no reason. Some choose family law, but many end up there as a last resort. It shows. Clients can be horrible, and needy, and they far to frequently think paying you is optional. It can be hard not to take it home with you. Most clients can't afford you, and you can really feel it -- it weighs on every decision you make. Finding clients can be tricky at first, so you take the wrong files and then you're not making any money and you have to deal with these clients and these lawyers and it can be way too much for way too little. Also, the industry norm seems to be a churn and burn strategy for young associates.

3) Oof.. not great? You are typically hired by the parent, and you represent them. They all lie a little so you never know if you're doing the "right thing". Good family lawyers definitely reduce harm to kids and that is very important. In the strongest terms, I urge you to avoid child protection. It is the most toxic area of "law" I have ever seen. It's arbitrary and unfair and you can think you're doing the right thing, but the risk of significant harm (no matter what side you are on) is just too real. I will never take a child protection case again.

4) Where you go matters. Higher end family shops, especially the smaller boutiques, can be pretty awesome. The happiest family lawyers I know started at small shops and stayed at small shops. Solo isn't ideal. These weird large sweatshops with impossible associate turnover should also be avoided. Look at their marketing -- the best firms are actually a little hard for most people to find. It's a ton of word of mouth or niche advertising. It is never too early to start networking. Attend some talks (with permission), meet some people. If they don't want to buy you a coffee and tell you about their practice, well, I don't know that such a family lawyer exists... So it's pretty easy to make friends.

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3 hours ago, SupportCalc said:

They all lie a little so you never know if you're doing the "right thing".

SupportCalc has the perfect all-encompassing answer, there's really nothing more to add. But the most important lesson by far is that "They all lie" and there's nothing more maddening and nonsensical to me than lying to your own lawyer... AND YET. 

Definitely do all the clinical work you can, so that you get a feel for whether your personality fits this type of work and client. 

Be ready to accept this inescapable part of practice:

"Clients can be horrible, and needy, and they far to frequently think paying you is optional."

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On 1/13/2021 at 12:02 AM, elliotwoods said:

1) Recommendations for opportunities during law school that would assist in experiencing the field as a student 

2) High-level pros/cons of family law (I have heard burnout rate can be high in this area)

3) Reality of having a positive impact on children in this field - I would be entering this field, with some hope that I could assist in lessening the impact of major disruptions in family life on children, is this approach misguided or naive?

4) Any other advice or things you wish you knew before entering the field of family law!

The points made by @SupportCalc are fully on target. I agree.

1) I heavily concentrated my law school course selection around family law. Like you, I went into law school with a family law tilt/lean.

Here are the academic courses I recommend for your 2L and 3L: Evidence, Tax Law, Trusts, Estates, Mediation/ADR, Trial Advocacy, Family Law, Children and the Law, Securities, Criminal Procedure etc. (Try not to have Evidence and Tax in the same semester - I did that, wasn't fun).

You will likely forget most of what you learned in school other than some family law-related courses when you actually hit first year of practice, but some of the experience of having conducted your own mock negotiation/trial will help lessen that initial nervousness going into your first motion/conference/trial. Courses such as securities, tax, trusts, estates, and criminal procedure are appetizers which will get you thinking about how family law can branch into other areas of law - especially when you have high income earners as clients.

Get into family law clinics, mooting, or frontline volunteer positions such as the Family Law Project, law school legal clinic family division, family law moots, or shadow family law professors/practitioners. You will learn lots in these positions about family law and about yourself, as well as demonstrate interest on a cover letter later on when applying to family law firms.

2) Pros:

You will almost never run out of work if you establish a good reputation among the legal community as a conscientious, ethical, and competent family law lawyer. Giving discounts here and there (e.g. waived consultation fees) also will encourage others to refer you clients. A sub-group of the general public is always looking for family law advice because of a bad divorce or new issues that have arisen due to their children growing older or re-partnering (e.g. marrying a new love interest). 

The Family Law Rules in Ontario are pretty intuitive and easy to understand (much logical than the Rules of Civil Procedure) because the former was created to assist self-reps and unreps in court.

Flexible work hours - Many family law firms in rural/suburban locations have flexible work hours and manageable billable targets (1200+ to 1400+).

Ability to choose the file you want to take - Some firms do not take legal aid/child protection/high conflict files. These files tend to the more difficult end of all family law files and they can be mentally taxing and emotionally draining.

You can absolutely be your own boss as a solo practitioner or make a new firm with a former work colleague - It will be hard at first, but  just be current with the law and establish a good reputation in the community.

Some people actually appreciate your effort even when you don't get the best results. This will be their first time they are being heard and given a fair hearing.

Cons:

Personal safety - your clients or their ex might threaten you and act upon it. There are certain personality types which are difficult to please and always felt like they have been victimized. Not surprisingly, they are going through a divorce.

Emotionally taxing. You can "take the work home" often because this area of law is so visceral. Clients gaslight you all the time, whether intentionally or unintentionally with "I never said that, you remembered it wrong, how could you forget?" It is so easy to get sucked in and lose your objectivity.

Losing when you think you are in the "right" - judges might not see the family dynamic and the best cure the same way as you do.

Relatively lower salary compared to other areas of law - This is related to your client's ability to pay - unless you are Downtown Toronto or Bay St handling all high value clients at a top firm.

Lack of Mentorship - Until you are lucky enough to article at one of the few firms where the partner/senior associate don't see you as a notetaker or basic drafters (who actually wants to teach you and prepare you for practice), you will likely enter this field with little to no knowledge of the law/best practices/self-protection techniques etc. A lot of us learn from bruises and crushed spirits.  The first few years hit hard.

3)  Try not to get your expectations so high about protecting the children. Most of the damage done to the children came/would come from parents. In day-to-day general family law practice, you almost never get to see the clients' kids. When you need an older child's input, there is the Office of the Children Lawyer with assigned professional social workers who can provide you with a report.

Also keep in mind that they are not your kids. Therefore, a lot of their traumatic/questionable behavior come from their parents and there is nothing you can do about it.

Focus on making the parents' divorce "less awful" because every dollar saved from a lawyer is a dollar that can be put towards a child.

4) WHERE YOU GO/ARTICLE WILL ABSOLUTELY MATTER (Emphasis mine). This is the only point I will repeat.

DO. NOT. WORK. FOR. A. REVOLVING. DOOR. FAMILY. FIRM. (full stop). A revolving door firm is a firm where the management has a history of not being able to retain associates. The revolving door nature suggests that there are chronic internal issues such as a toxic personality, less-than-ethical legal practices, high workload little pay, apathy in the ranks, or overemphasis on billing. A hallmark is the constant changes in staff, especially among junior associates.

Family law can attract some serious LAWPRO claims (e.g. negligence claims). You don't want to be that junior lawyer who is so overworked that you could miss deadlines and due diligence requirements. You should shadow a senior family law lawyer who can explain why certain things are done a certain way. Protect yourself before you protect your clients.

Your work colleague and environment can break or save your practice. Some firms will not stick behind their associates or provide perspective/mental health support during times when you are in crisis. Your fellow family law associates at your firm are your best friends at work for a second opinion. They should never be your rivals.

Money is not everything. Your mental health matters more than what your boss thinks of you or that bonus. You need that perspective outside of work.

Let me send this message home by saying that I rather give up my license than work for some family law firms.

@artsydorkOff to you.

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Great thread, I'm happy to see family law getting some attention as it's an area I'm also interested in. I had a few questions of my own that I was hoping someone could help answer.

1) One of my concerns about family law is the nature of payments. I've read that some clients can be reticent to pay up and can be quite vindictive. Is this behaviour common? Does it make family law more difficult to practice as a solo practitioner? 

2) Does family mirror some other areas of law where larger or more competitive firms exist, drawing more heavily on high performing students? Or is it a more decentralized practice with few large players? 

3) How much of a family lawyers job is more rote (filing certain papers or motions) and how much involves research (trying to find an approach for a certain case or issue)? I apologize if those examples seem naive as I'm certain they are, but I'm not familiar enough with the field to phrase the question any better. 

 

If anyone has some insight, I'd be very grateful!  

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1 hour ago, SadNWO said:

1) One of my concerns about family law is the nature of payments. I've read that some clients can be reticent to pay up and can be quite vindictive. Is this behaviour common? Does it make family law more difficult to practice as a solo practitioner? 

2) Does family mirror some other areas of law where larger or more competitive firms exist, drawing more heavily on high performing students? Or is it a more decentralized practice with few large players? 

3) How much of a family lawyers job is more rote (filing certain papers or motions) and how much involves research (trying to find an approach for a certain case or issue)? I apologize if those examples seem naive as I'm certain they are, but I'm not familiar enough with the field to phrase the question any better. 

 

If anyone has some insight, I'd be very grateful!  

 

1) In my very limited experience, it can be a problem, particularly if you don't know how to handle it. I suspect larger firms have better systems in place than I did when I went out on my own. My experience was that while a reasonable retainer might be hard to ask for up front (when you are desperate for work and don't want to scare anyone off), it is absolutely necessary. With experience I suspect most lawyers will anticipate the upcoming costs and get further deposits as needed (before they are working on credit). So, yes, I struggled with this at first, but I'm pretty sure with best-practices implemented it shouldn't be a major issue. 

2) No idea. I suspect it depends on the market. Where I started there were the "revolving door" shops who hired articles, and then there were the smaller shops. The latter were less regular, since they likely hired back and kept their new associate. There are certainly some more prestigious players in bigger cities, and I assume they take articles, but that's postulation. 

3) Assuming you have a good assistant (which I didn't on account of going solo too quick), they typically handle filing and rote drafting. I was new and inexperienced, so I certainly had to do a decent amount of research, but it wasn't a huge part of my practice, and very little billable (since I was mostly getting up to speed on the law). Most of my practice was spent meeting with clients, calling/meeting with lawyers, the occasional mediation, and drafting agreements. Wrangling financial disclosure played a very prominent role in my day-to-day as well. I did some court work, but not much (compared to my background in Crim. at least). With respect to the substantive law, on a very base level it is incredibly intuitive -- however, there are exceptions to everything. The problem is that you need to keep a mental index of the exceptions in order to spot the issues (this is mostly just a problem of inexperience). If one applies, then you would definitely have cause for more research. One of the scary parts of practice, to my mind at least, is how much you can "get away with" not knowing. Since almost everything is settled out of court, and nobody should really want to go to court (incurring that expense for their client) -- a lot of it came down to brinksmanship. Who cares if you're right if your client can't afford to litigate? That's why, and I'm mostly serious here, I think junior lawyers should consider cultivating a reputation for occasionally running trials pro-bono, just so other counsel know they can't be pushed around. 

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3 hours ago, Aureliuse said:

4) WHERE YOU GO/ARTICLE WILL ABSOLUTELY MATTER (Emphasis mine). This is the only point I will repeat.

DO. NOT. WORK. FOR. A. REVOLVING. DOOR. FAMILY. FIRM. (full stop). A revolving door firm is a firm where the management has a history of not being able to retain associates. The revolving door nature suggests that there are chronic internal issues such as a toxic personality, less-than-ethical legal practices, high workload little pay, apathy in the ranks, or overemphasis on billing. A hallmark is the constant changes in staff, especially among junior associates.

 

This may be my lack of legal experience speaking, but is it typical that firms such as these have a sort of reputation that students can easily become aware of or would career advising within a law school be able to provide information on a specific firm's retention rates? Or maybe networking is the key to finding this out?

I can't say enough how much I appreciate your response, as well as the others who've contributed. I've seen some of your contributions on other family law related posts and they're extraordinarily insightful! Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

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3 hours ago, SadNWO said:

1) One of my concerns about family law is the nature of payments. I've read that some clients can be reticent to pay up and can be quite vindictive. Is this behaviour common? Does it make family law more difficult to practice as a solo practitioner? 

2) Does family mirror some other areas of law where larger or more competitive firms exist, drawing more heavily on high performing students? Or is it a more decentralized practice with few large players? 

3) How much of a family lawyers job is more rote (filing certain papers or motions) and how much involves research (trying to find an approach for a certain case or issue)? I apologize if those examples seem naive as I'm certain they are, but I'm not familiar enough with the field to phrase the question any better. 

1) Family law lawyers have set initial retainers. I reasonably quote for my clients how much something is going to cost in a reporting letter BEFORE I take a step so they will not be shocked later. I secure funding first from my client if I retain an expert for valuation, child assessment, or forensic accountant. Some firms have payment plans, others maintain a retainer level for each file at a certain level. Most family law retainers have clear clauses about payment of fees and settlement of fee disputes. Different firms have unique billing practices (what to bill, what to discount). This is often the job of senior counsel or partners to review your bill and provide discount where reasonable as part of an overall client management strategy.

This is part of client management which you will learn once you enter practice.

2) In Ontario, there are well known family law firms which all handle high value and/or high conflict files and have some exceptional senior lawyers in family law. There is usually one to two renowned firms in each region except major city centers where many old firms have established practices and family law talents in a big market.

Everyone wants to join these firms. There is hardly any OCI family law firm in the Toronto OCI process.

Family law is about what you do, how passionate you are, and how much effort you put into your practice. After a few years, you will get noticed when you go up against top lawyers in leading firms.

To be honest, it is hard to tell if someone is a right fit just by looking at their grades, experiences, and course selection. A lot of family law is "people skills" and stress management. It is also about what you want out of your practice. Do you want to work 8 am to 11 pm 6 days a week for high paying clients during peak times?

3) This answer is unique to every firm and unique to every lawyer. Of course, we all follow the same set of rules and procedures. Nonetheless, how we actually comply with these rules in our written materials vary from lawyer to lawyer (if that makes sense).

Research wise, we all follow leading and well-written Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada decisions. However, I prefer to find fact-based cases that run in parallel to my clients' situations and argue for a similar judgment or distinguish opposing counsel's legal research. How much time you put into research can pay dividends down the road. What distinguishes a competent family lawyer from an exceptional one is often found in the research involved in his or her written submissions. Make a habit of reading caselaw regularly and save good cases.

My practice is always tailor my pleadings, research, legal strategy to individual clients. As a result, there is almost little rote work and no copy and pasting. There should be no laziness in your practice. No cutting corners. Clients can tell when you are going the extra mile to help them.

While you will have your own or share a legal clerk/paralegal/assistant in your practice, never rely on them as their quality, like lawyers, can vary. In addition, when it comes to arbitration or trials, knowing that you did the grunt work will help as you can point to key facts quickly. It shows in front of your arbitrator/judge. This is part of "know your case."

Also, if your assistant is sick or otherwise unavailable, you will not become helpless with filing, serving, or drafting.

On an anecdotal level, I have gone to trials as counsel where I ripped my friend's Financial Statement and expert report into shreds because I had suspected they relied on their clerk and expert to do the grunt work. The cross-examination was a slow evisceration process where I could unravel every account and figure. In the end, the witness was completely confused and could not give straight-forward answers.

In the end, you can advise the court in your closing submissions that "my friend's Financial Statement was neither frank nor complete. In fact, it did not belong to his/her client. Rather, it was the work of so-and-so expert or counsel to present a skewed view of his/her financial landscape because clearly, if it were actually his/her client's true financial landscape, he/she could be forthcoming no matter how he/she was led."

You get the point.

Edited by Aureliuse
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Fantastic content, thank everyone for answering my questions. Hearing first hand accounts of practice are a tremendous help to me and really illuminate what life is like as a practicing family lawyer.

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Geez, I've been a member here for a while and haven't seen such an interest in family law as much as we have lately! There is a lot of overlap, so I recommend looking at the recentish posts as well as anything that is said here. That said, always happy to talk about family law. Responding both to OP and Sad World Order.

It seems like me, Calc, and Aurelieuse have fairly different experiences but, despite the different clientele, seem to share many of the same thoughts on the field. Also jumping from their contributions as well.

 Recommendations for opportunities during law school that would assist in experiencing the field as a student 

General client management and litigation skills are crucial to build. Family positions that are purely solicitor based are rare - most family lawyers start in the high conflict/high drama litigation before expanding. Get your feet wet by gaining experience with people. I know Western used to place students in the local Duty Counsel office and had students draft family pleadings in pairs. Other schools did the same. That is practical experience as well.

You'll want to take relevant course work as well. Tax, criminal, mediation/negotiation, wills/estates, trusts, bankruptcy, law & poverty, litigation courses, evidence, etc. Basically, the core family classes + the tangent areas that you'll touch upon +- more solicitor style family law or litigation style.

2) High-level pros/cons of family law 

It's an evolving field with an active/friendly bar. I've made appearances in 7 or 8 different jurisdictions throughout my time. Save for dealing with the "big city lawyers" (seriously, dealing with GTA counsel is garbage for the most part), the bar is willing to chat about files, give mentorship advice, etc.  It's refreshing compared to dealing with other civil lit lawyers. 

Family law is constantly evolving. Collaborative law, mediation, arbitration, med-arb, parenting coordination, etc. are various ways for lawyers to expand their practice areas. People have their thoughts about these areas (private justice for the rich) but it adds a nuanced approach to law and separation. It's also addressing the clinical aspect of the job.

A good family lawyer can zealously advocate for their client while de-escalating conflict. Some lawyers send the nastiest letters that I have to essentially do a trigger-warning for my clients. Others attempt the "hard on the issue, soft on the person" approach, which the judiciary appreciates. I agree with Aurielese in that the first couple of years of practice is finding your voice as it's a very delicate balance.

That rides into a con of family law - it's emotional AF. It can be hella messy. Clients are often in distress. People are broken. There are also terrible people that use their children as pawns, refuse to pay any support for their children, or have very inflated sense of what they did in a relationship. Some people are reexperiencing trauma from the relationship and it's hard for them to open up. And others are flat out liars. Clients can be downright assholes. I've never actively hated that many people before but certain opposing parties or even my own clients *shudders*. I usually get off record if it gets to that point, though I do have some clients that I dislike that I can still objectively advance their interests for.

3) Reality of having a positive impact on children in this field - I would be entering this field, with some hope that I could assist in lessening the impact of major disruptions in family life on children, is this approach misguided or naive?

It's kinda naive and that's ok. The children aren't your clients. Your role is to get your clients to understand their rights and obligations. You can encourage your clients to be the best parents they can be, and encourage to de-escalate the conflict, attend therapy, and social work the fuck out of them - if a parent doesn't want to change, however, that's not our role and you're just going to burn yourself out. 

I warn my clients about the law and try to come up with realistic plans that work in their situation. Ultimately, it's not our life so I try to craft orders that are forward thinking to avoid future litigation/motion to changes. 

You can be the lawyer to help someone out in a very distressful time of their life. You can help them understand and navigate a confusing process and try to guide your client into how to be more neutral in their discussions, to create healthy boundaries and the like. You can also help family dynamics by not being that douche lawyer that are yelling in court about negligence

4) Any other advice or things you wish you knew before entering the field of family law!

Family law itself is not that complex. The Family Law Rules are simplified from the Rules of Civil Procedure. It's pretty organized and easy to pick up the basics of the field. Higher level practice is neat as there are intersections between criminal, estates, trusts, bankruptcy, immigration, child protection, etc.

The Bench and Court Staff know who the good lawyers are. Reputation is very important. We're officers of the court but building a good reputation is important. Judges in my jurisdiction know that I am generally very resolution/solution focused. 2 judges in particular really listen when I press hard on some points as they trust that I've made numerous attempts to get the other side on board/offered creative approaches towards resolution. 

It takes time to build reputation and your voice. It's a fine balance. I've learned a lot about how I deal with stress, interruptions and my own issues stemming from coming from a divorced family. I've learned to walk away from some issues and have grown from tit-for-tat. It's hard, especially when some senior counsel like to throw their weight around. Or, asking for a follow up and the lawyer lashes out. 

 One of my concerns about family law is the nature of payments. I've read that some clients can be reticent to pay up and can be quite vindictive. Is this behaviour common? Does it make family law more difficult to practice as a solo practitioner? 

No money in trust = no work done. I mean, I struggle with that, especially as conferences are coming up. I've gotten better at reminding people that I don't work for free and get past their emotional manipulations. Most clients DO want to pay for your services though. 

I often explain how a retainer works and compare it to gas in the tank. No gas means I can't drive. Get your money up front! That's on you as a business person. There are creative ways, such as getting a credit card on file and the proper designation. 

SPs still have admin assistants who can chase people down/send out top up requests. You'll need someone to separate you from your clients - my practice became much more efficient once I had a competent assistant that could handhold some clients and free me to work on pleadings, solicitor work and litigation.

Does family mirror some other areas of law where larger or more competitive firms exist, drawing more heavily on high performing students? Or is it a more decentralized practice with few large players? 

Depends on where you are. There are amazing family lawyers that are doing primarily legal aid work and some amazing family lawyers that deal exclusively with high networth individuals. Family law is largely done by SPs and small firms. I again agree with Aur in that it's hard to tell whether a candidate will be good based on grades - you either have people skills or you don't.  There are heavy hitter names, such as Epstein, and some larger firms that have their token family lawyer and some high end boutiques. Sometimes it's simply because a lawyer has been in the area for a while that they get the bigger files. Be available and your reputation will grow.

There are mills out there that are equivalent to criminal lawyer dump trucks. I recall a certain firm that seemed to have been hiring new associates for over a year in the Ontario Reports (Edit. Just checked OR and they're still seeking associates 🤣) I can't fathom what the turnover rate was for them given how long they advertised for. I also see some snakey lawyers forcing young calls into fairly abusive situations. I've been fortunate that my experience was in duty counsel, SP and a great small firm that respects me and wants me to grow. 

How much of a family lawyers job is more rote (filing certain papers or motions) and how much involves research (trying to find an approach for a certain case or issue)? 

Depends on the practice! I primarily focus on decision-making/parenting time issues so my pleadings are fairly routine. I rarely have to delve in factums as my motions tend to be short, or it's a very basic regurgitation on the law. There are routine family cases that don't need to be attached in a factum. Legal Aid Ontario has updated memos that you can look to for research (if you're on the panel).

Many pleadings are routine. It makes the job easier and helps keep track. Judges don't want to read about how garbage the other parent is - they want to know why your client's plan is in the children's best interest. Your client might love all the jabs that you take but the bench won't.

I keep updated with interesting cases from corollaryrelief and LAO Law.

Re: Child Protection

I disagree with Calc on one issue though - child protection is not formally "family law". There are intersections but most family lawyers are fairly ignorant about Child Protection issues/laws. It's more akin to criminal law as it's the intersection between between the State. Except, well, a good chunk of CAS lawyers I've dealt with have very little understanding of hearsay and permittable evidence. And Charter need not apply!  It's also surprising at how ignorant some of the CAS supervisors are about family law, despite having access to legal counsel...

It can be very gratifying working on CP files. It can also be very sad. There can be really interesting triable issues with some fairly sophisticated legal arguments presented. It also can leave you speechless at how cold the State can be, and also give you hope when the State really does work with the family for the better of the unit. It's not for everyone (and certainly don't fault Calc for not enjoying the work. There are many areas of law that are not for me, just as CP is not for them) - just wanted to clarify on that point.

 

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41 minutes ago, artsydork said:

It's kinda naive and that's ok. The children aren't your clients. Your role is to get your clients to understand their rights and obligations. You can encourage your clients to be the best parents they can be, and encourage to de-escalate the conflict, attend therapy, and social work the fuck out of them - if a parent doesn't want to change, however, that's not our role and you're just going to burn yourself out. 

This is good to know, I appreciate your honesty and your response! 

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15 minutes ago, elliotwoods said:

This is good to know, I appreciate your honesty and your response! 

There ARE ways for you to be more of a "child focused" lawyer. Gain experience in the field and you can apply to become a Children's Lawyer, representing the children's voice in custodial/parenting time. They also act for children in child protection matters and can even assist with secure treatment orders and the like. In house counsel positions for Children's Aid Societies are akin to Crown counsel, and believe that they're acting in a child-focused manner.

Many family lawyers do want to do right by the children. That sometimes delves into emotionally-driven submissions and can create its own issues. We try to be mindful of children when drafting, and focusing on the future, but our duty is owed to our client. Keeping healthy boundaries is important for all family lawyers. Burnout and compassion fatigue is real.

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I am adding the caveat that my advice is largely from an Ontario-centric perspective! There are common generalities across the provinces, but Office of the Children's Lawyer, Child Protection agency stuff, and even how pleadings are drafted vary across the provinces. Each province has their own unique quirks (dower in Alberta is weird to me) that you would want to find out more from a practitioner in your province. Same down to what students can do - what a McGill student is allowed to do is different than the experiences Ontario students can do (as I said in a thread about McGill v Osgoode :P) is different than what UAlberta students can do.

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38 minutes ago, artsydork said:

I am adding the caveat that my advice is largely from an Ontario-centric perspective! There are common generalities across the provinces, but Office of the Children's Lawyer, Child Protection agency stuff, and even how pleadings are drafted vary across the provinces. Each province has their own unique quirks (dower in Alberta is weird to me) that you would want to find out more from a practitioner in your province. Same down to what students can do - what a McGill student is allowed to do is different than the experiences Ontario students can do (as I said in a thread about McGill v Osgoode :P) is different than what UAlberta students can do.

Hey - we know how to take care of our widows in this province!

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Family law is a trip. You get to represent the best and the worst that litigation has to offer. 

Achieve justice for those fleeing family violence, seize assets from a child support cheat, save kids from truly hellish living environments.

And on the other side, when you’re starting out and can’t really pick your clients, you get to represent the 36 year old coke dealer who lives at home with his mom and likes to snort more than he sells. The sort of guy who circles his ex around the neighborhood in his truck and will casually make racist and disparaging remarks toward his child’s mother, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his child shares her ethnicity too. Someone has to represent these duds with kids and, when just starting out, that someone could be you! 
 

Enjoy! 

Edited by TrialPrep
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3 hours ago, TrialPrep said:

And on the other side, when you’re starting out and can’t really pick your clients, you get to represent the 36 year old coke dealer who lives at home with his mom and likes to snort more than he sells. The sort of guy who circles his ex around the neighborhood in his truck and will casually make racist and disparaging remarks toward his child’s mother, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his child shares her ethnicity too. Someone has to represent these duds with kids and, when just starting out, that someone could be you! 

 

Enjoy! 

Excellent. Just the moment I’ve been waiting for. 

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20 hours ago, artsydork said:

It's more akin to criminal law as it's the intersection between between the State. Except, well, a good chunk of CAS lawyers I've dealt with have very little understanding of hearsay and permittable evidence.

I'll confess -- coming from a Crim. background, trying to run a real "family practice", this is what killed me. You still have the massive coercive force of the state but none of the rigor. The evidence that went in on my one-and-only protection file was mind boggling. Double hearsay, that is actually opinion evidence, without a voir dire? And I'm the unreasonable one for objecting to it? It still haunts me. 

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The rules of evidence do matter in family law and child protection work and, generally, your further ahead if you have a firm grasp over the rules and trial procedure than other counsel in the room. But ya, it is a bit more flexible. Lot more arguing over the issue of weight as opposed to admissibility. Child protection trial work can be very interesting: potential for lots multi week trials with dozens of witness and expert evidence. 

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The heartbreaking thing about the child protection work I did was that there were just no good options - just varying levels of shit.  CFS wasn't getting involved without some good reason, but putting children into care for either a short or long term was hardly very good for them either.

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2 hours ago, SupportCalc said:

You still have the massive coercive force of the state but none of the rigor. The evidence that went in on my one-and-only protection file was mind boggling. Double hearsay, that is actually opinion evidence, without a voir dire? And I'm the unreasonable one for objecting to it? It still haunts me. 

Also true in some areas of admin law. Lots of government power. Very few procedural protections. 

 

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