Family Law Attorney Panel Discussion

By Janelle Riddick, CFCC Student Fellow 2014-2015

This semester through my participation in the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Children, Families, and the Courts Student Fellows Program, I was able to meet a panel of successful and enthusiastic Maryland family law attorneys. The panel of attorneys was able to provide insight into their experiences in a career field where their work often does not receive the recognition and praise that it deserves. The attorneys provided unique perspectives into their journeys to the practice of family law and useful words of wisdom. Some always knew that they wanted to practice family law, while others began practicing in other areas of law until family law chose them. Each panel member added valuable perspectives to the discussion, and it was a breath of fresh air and reassurance for me as a second-year law student with a passion to help others through child advocacy and family law.

From the panel discussion, I also gained a better understanding of how family law attorneys dedicate their careers to advocate for broken families and how they often meet their clients at the lowest points in their lives. Seemingly for some clients, the attorneys are a lighthouse in a hopeless sea of never-ending issues, including domestic violence, poverty, child custody, and divorce. The attorneys transform their clients’ lives and provide them with the peace of mind that they will work for them to resolve their issues. I listened as the panel described how they work long hours but expressed just how rewarding it is to impact the life of someone else in a way that is life-changing, whether it is helping a distraught woman get out of an abusive marriage or assist a deserving parent to gain custody of their children during a nasty divorce. I walked away from the panel feeling empowered and enthusiastic about the career path that I chose and with a better understanding of the importance of the work of family law attorneys.

Whenever I express my interest in becoming a family law attorney to others, the usual response I receive is “Why? You will not make any money.” Through this panel discussion and my experiences in child advocacy and family law thus far, I am persuaded that there is no way to put a price on the ability to make a substantial difference in the lives of children and families in crisis.

3 thoughts on “Family Law Attorney Panel Discussion

  1. I am glad to see that despite the input of other individuals, your perception regarding family and the law remains uninfluenced, Janelle. Regardless of their beliefs, there is a great living to be made in this area of practice, and as you mentioned, no quantity of money can replace the satisfaction and joy concomitant with resolving family disputes and ameliorating the lives of those in need. Like you, I found this panel discussion was beneficial for multiple reasons, but above all, I enjoyed the relatable nature of each individual attorney. Despite the fact that their contributions in a mentally taxing area of law do not get deserved recognition, each panelist gave positive feedback about their respective niches. Further, I noticed the bond amongst each of the five panelists, most which have collaborated on past or present projects, was very close-knit. Ignoring the conflicting financial perceptions of family and the law for a moment, there are clearly several other benefits associated with its practice.

  2. I also greatly enjoyed the panel discussion, as it provided a valuable insight into the lives of several different practicing family law attorneys. Most importantly, each attorney stressed the need to be client orientated without setting expectations that are unattainable. Each attorney harped on the fact that as a family law attorney you have to sometimes limit your client’s expectations if they are too drastic. The attorneys also noted that admitting your mistakes is always prudent and will build your client’s trust.

  3. I enjoyed the panel for their insight on family law as well as their advice about progressing in the legal profession. It is always a privilege to hear from practicing attorneys about the do’s and don’ts of the legal field. I especially found it interesting that one of the attorneys commented about going through her own divorce and how it made her feel about her work with family law. Earlier in the semester, one student in class mentioned that going through a divorce is what motivated her interest in family law. It just goes to show the huge impact that family lawyers have on the clients they serve.

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