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.