Thank you for asking this question. It comes at a time when I’ve been thinking about this very subject.
I am the first lawyer in my family. I am also, at this point, the only lawyer in my family. I’ve been practicing law for 25 years, and while I did not exclusively practice family law at the beginning of my career, I practiced family law throughout my career, and focused purely on family law for the last 13 years. I chose to practice family law because I got tired of this scenario:
Potential client: Somebody did me wrong to the tune of $20,000, and I’d like to know how much it will cost for me to sue him to get a judgment against him for $20,000.
Me: It will cost you about $20,000 to sue him to get a judgment for $20,000.
Potential client: Hmmm, so I have to pay $20,000 to get $20,000? That still means I’m out $20,000.
Me: No, it’s worse than that. It will cost you $20,000 to sue him to get a judgment for $20,000, if you get a judgment for $20,000 against him, and even if you do get the judgment for $20,000 against him, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to collect that $20,000 judgment. You will likely have to spend more time and effort after obtaining the judgment against him to collect the $20,000, and that’s if he actually has $20,000 that you can collect.
Potential client: Then it seems to me that it doesn’t take a genius to realize that odds are I’d be better off just cutting my losses and not suing.
Me: Agreed. Suing people to recover damages is, for most people, a losing proposition, in my experience.
It was good advice, but as you may have guessed, I didn’t make any money dispensing such advice.
Personal injury is too much of a money grab. Of course those who were wrongfully injured deserve compensation for their losses, but that has about as much to do with personal injury practice as that trip to Vegas has to do with being a necessary business expense.
I didn’t like criminal defense because I got tired of A) guilty people wanting my help to avoid accountability and B) dealing with those prosecutors and judges who at best don’t much value innocence and at worst fraudulently disregard it.
So what makes family law any different? While divorce and child custody disputes are also often matters of throwing good money after bad, you at least possess something you haven’t yet lost and that you may, if you can persuade the court that your just cause is just, still hold onto after all the litigation dust settles. Fighting for your children, your home, and your livelihood are some of the last things people should give up on. This is one of the reasons why I became a family lawyer. It’s a good fight.
What issues in divorce and family law that do not drown in a vast sea of lies are difficult–at times impossible–to detect in and among the fraudulent froth, which breeds cynicism and apathy in most judges. Knowing this, judges’ credulity fatigue leads to perfunctory, “I don’t need to hear any more” and “your guess is as good as mine” decisions. Knowing this, lawyers and litigants too often either deliberately take an ends justify the means approach or a “who knows what’ll work; let’s see what sticks to the wall” approach. Litigants abuse lawyers who abuse judges who abuse litigants in a vicious circle. Nothing destroys one’s faith in the legal system more or faster than experience with the legal system. The practice of family law is soul sucking. While our legal system is fairly well designed, it is, in general, poorly administered at every level from the judges on down to the lawyers and to the litigants. While there are some good people working within the system, there are not enough of them to make a meaningful difference in most cases, to say nothing of all cases. This is the other reason I practice family law; it’s the only practice niche where—because I know through hard-won experience where the quicksand, snakes, and tigers are, and how to avoid them, if not always defeat them—I can still do some good some of the time more often than in any other practice niche, and thus I can earn the money I charge for my services.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277