Attorneys who practice in the area of family and juvenile law frequently see their clients at their most distressed: they represent parents who have lost custody of their children (to the state or to the other parent), children who have been arrested and are being prosecuted as delinquents, or families who are worried about an elderly relative's ability to continue caring for herself -- to name just a few common issues. But these lawyers also help clients achieve great joy, when handling an adoption, or helping a same-sex (or infertile) couple make legal arrangements for artificial reproduction, or upon resolving one of the aforementioned distress-provoking matters.
Family and juvenile lawyers must be fluent in substantive law and the procedural rules of many different courts; adept at counseling clients who can be justifiably quite emotional; skilled at negotiating favorable resolutions in extraordinarily high-stakes matters; and comfortable with trial lawyering, often in a context of great uncertainty.
If you want to truly make a difference in the lives of your clients by pursuing a career in family and juvenile law, these are some of the courses you might consider taking:
Battered Women's Advocacy Project
Child Advocacy Clinic
Family Advocacy Clinic
Internships (placements are available in a variety of relevant organizations)
Juvenile Defender Clinic
Caribbean Internship (virtual)
Beyond the curriculum, the Career Services pro bono program has many opportunities available for students to explore family and juvenile law. In addition to matching students with faculty to assist them on pro bono projects, the Career Services Office has placed students in a variety of organizations for non credit, volunteer work, including:
Education Law Task Force
MA Advocates for Children
Kids in Need of Defense
Court Appointed Special Advocates of Boston
Medical Legal Partnership for Children
Senior Partners for Justice Family and Probate Court Volunteer Internship Program
Clubhouse Family Legal Support Project
Women's Bar Foundation Family Law Project
Additionally, the Office of Professional and Career Development, in conjunction with the Faculty Clerkship Committee, runs a summer clerkship program in which students completing their first year are matched with judges for an unpaid, non-credit experience. Many of the available positions are with Probate and Family Court judges throughout Massachusetts.