How To Pursue A Career In Family Law

We specialise in family law at Higgins Miller, dealing with issues such as divorce, adoption and wills and probate. Working in family law means helping people during some of the most stressful life events they are ever likely to face, and it demands a blend of legal and technical expertise and an ability to empathise and offer support. Many of the people seeking help with issues of family law have probably never dealt with legal matters before, and we take great pride in the way in which we guide our clients through what can often be the extremely complex landscape of family law in a clear and calm manner. The rest of this article explains how to become a family lawyer, setting out the reasons for specialising in family law, the educational and professional qualifications needed and what kind of practical training and work experience you need. 

What areas does family law cover?

As someone specialising in family law, a family lawyer provides legal advice on issues around family and relationships. The topics which run through a lot of family law include marriage, divorce and children, and the areas which you will be expected to be well versed in include the following:

  • Divorce and relationship breakdown
  • Financial disputes caused by divorce, civil partnership dissolution and relationship breakdown 
  • Arguments over the arrangements to be made for children after divorce or relationship breakdown and how personal and/or business assets will be divided
  • Disputes around children, such as parental disputes, questions of grandparents’ legal rights, surrogacy, child abduction and step-parent adoption
  • Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
  • Civil Partnerships
  • International family law

Why do people specialise in family law?

The people who choose to specialise in family law are often those who have the right kind of temperament for dealing with adults and children facing distressing life events and situations. If you feel it would be rewarding to help people in difficult times such as when a family dispute arises, then you may be the ideal kind of person to specialise in family law. The skills and attributes needed to specialise in family law – over and above the requisite legal qualifications – include good communication skills and the ability to read between the lines of what clients say, social skills such as empathy and tact, the ability to remain professional and objective when dealing with sometimes distressing cases, the ability to stay calm when dealing with emotively charged situations, confidence, a positive attitude and a great work ethic.   

What educational qualifications are needed to specialise in family law?

There are numerous different routes via which you can qualify to specialise in practicing family law, although they all currently require GCSE and A-Level qualifications or a suitable equivalent. Some law firms operate legal apprenticeships, which involve students who have finished their A-Levels but have yet to complete a degree combining study with work experience to qualify as a lawyer in approximately 6 years. Another option is to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive lawyer, which involves a similar mix of study and hands-on family law experience over a period of at least 5 years.  

What practical training and professional qualifications do you need?

A new route into specialising in family law was introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in September 2021, with the intention that it should eventually replace traditional routes into the legal profession and emerge as the central path to qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales. The requirements for this new SQE route include the following:

  • A degree, which can be in any subject
  • Two years spent doing full time qualifying work experience
  • A pass mark in both stages of the newly introduced Solicitors Qualifications Examinations (SQE)
  • Meeting the SRA’s character and suitability requirements

The minimum time it can take to qualify via this new route is 5 years, although it is likely to be 6 years if A-Levels have been completed, or 7years depending upon the nature of the degree which is taken 

The Solicitors Qualifying Examinations (SQE) come in two stages, and candidates need to pass stage 1 before being able to attempt stage 2. Stage 1 involves an assessment of legal knowledge as well as professional conduct and ethics, over the course of 2 examination papers which each contain 180 multiple choice questions and take a maximum of 5 hours to complete. Candidates are not allowed to take books, notes or study materials into the examinations. 

Stage 2 of the SQEs involves an assessment of practical skills such as case analysis, client interviews, advocacy, legal research and drafting. The assessment involves 3 half days of written exams and 2 half days of oral exams, amounting to a total of 14 hours of exams. 

What work experience needed?

The new route into a career in family law calls for 2 years of full time work, but allows for this experience to be gained with as many as 4 different employers over the 2 year period. The family law work experience in question can be paid or unpaid and might include volunteering at a law centre or Citizens Advice Bureau, paralegal experience and periods spent advising in a student law clinic. For work experience to aid your progress toward a career in family law it will need to be signed off by a solicitor, who will provide feedback after reviewing the work that has been done. 

If you’d like to find out more about a career in family law please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.


March 6, 2023

Legal Aid & Funding