After completing my first year at Lewis and Clark Law School and returning home to Denver, I was fortunate to score a position as a legal intern for The Harris Law Firm, which focuses its practice in the area of family law. I have been on the job for about 2 ½ weeks now, and thought my initial impressions might be helpful to others considering a career in family law. Here are 6 things that I have learned during my brief time at The Harris Law Firm:
- Family law is a litigation-based practice. In most cases, documents and other information must be secured and produced, depositions must be taken, motions must be drafted, filed, and argued, hearings must be attended, and absent settlement full-blown trials are necessary. I would wager that most family law attorneys spend significantly more time in court that commercial litigators.
- Family Law is complicated and touches upon a broad range of sophisticated legal issues, Successful family law attorneys, particularly those with wealthy clients, must often deal with complex business law issues, contractual matters, constitutional law, real estate law, and even criminal law from time-to-time. Moreover, accounting and tax matters regularly come into play.
- People skills are critical a to a successful family law practice. Few life events trigger stronger emotions and stress than separation, divorce, and child custody battles. Empathy, understanding, and effective communication, as well as building strong relationships, are key to helping clients navigate the legal processes. In addition, family law clients often must reveal intimate details of their lives. It takes a special person to support somebody going through hardships involving their family.
- Culture has a significant impact on family law. Societal norms for family and the family unit are consistently changing. The result is the law changing to accommodate those cultural developments. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic forced families to make new decisions and attorneys and judges had to respond to new legal issues. In some cases, parents were denied child custody or visitation rights because they refused vaccinations. Another example is evolving gender roles. Assumptions about the traditional roles of the mother and father are no longer blindly accepted. Instead, the law focuses more on what it best or most fair regardless of gender.
- The best family lawyers care about families and children in general, not just the families of their clients. One aspect of the Harris Law Firm that stands out to me is its culture of giving back to the community. There is a real commitment to helping those less fortunate, often sans any compensation. The motivation to represent clients comes from a place of genuine desire to help parents and children, which is consistently fostered through community initiatives such as offering Pro Bono services, volunteering with charitable organizations, and providing hundreds of birthday boxes to Colorado kids.
- Having a great team is critically important to a successful family law practice. Family law clients are often anxious, angry, and stressed- so much is at stake. Helping people through emotionally charged issues over a prolonged period can become trying for family law attorneys. The Harris Law Firm promotes teamwork and provides resources to their team members that allows them to stay fresh, focused, and to prioritize their own health. These policies give the firm’s attorneys and other legal professionals the confidence to tackle complex cases; there is always a qualified person to help.