Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Doc Review v. Family Law

Which is the lesser of the two evils? nighthawk08/23/17
Family law without question. I'm sure doc review is more ple thirdtierlaw08/23/17
No doubt family law. At least you can legitimately say in f themapmaster08/23/17
If you practicing in front of a supreme court (in NY) or Sup jcad08/23/17
Family Law, but I'd imagine doc review is a lot less stressf tedandlisa12308/23/17
Family law even though it can be heart breaking. But at leas isthisit08/23/17
I didn't find family law that bad at all. Yes, some of your fettywap08/23/17
If you're looking to build a legal career, family law is bet e36m308/23/17
I don't know if I'd really characterize either as the practi lolwutjobs08/23/17
What do you base this opinion on? So long as the judges actu dakotalaw08/23/17
Transferability of family law skills varies a lot.If you wer onehell08/23/17
at least some people choose to go into family law voluntaril dingbat08/23/17
There's definitely plenty of opportunity in family law to ho cranky08/23/17
It's about what you collect, not what you bill. Bill someone nighthawk08/24/17
I guess I've just been lucky, but I've never had to write of thirdtierlaw08/24/17
True, billing at $x an hour does not mean making that amount cranky08/24/17
Family law has a lot more upside, but depending on your pers superttthero08/23/17
I love flat fee. This year I've only worked on two billable dingbat08/24/17
It depends on what you are looking for. Doc review sucks. bittersweet08/25/17
I'm with a large DA's Office and am now a senior DA in a div newjag1708/25/17
Come on though. From my experience on the outside and the ti superttthero08/25/17
I got a buddy that started her own family law practice. She bizzybone131308/26/17
I'm not trying to imply that any area of law practice is eas newjag1708/28/17
I've started noticing, as my desperation sets in and I have notreallyalawyer08/28/17
Just saw this post. I find this to be a difficult questio cocolawyer10/17/17

nighthawk (Aug 23, 2017 - 1:25 pm)

Which is the lesser of the two evils?

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thirdtierlaw (Aug 23, 2017 - 2:04 pm)

Family law without question. I'm sure doc review is more pleasant. In family law you're filing and arguing motions, according to the rules you're following the rules of evidence, you are managing clients, retaining clients, and trying cases.

Doc review you sit in front of a computer and click buttons. Aren't there some states that won't accept time doing doc review as practicing law for the purpose of reciprocity?

So at least in family law you're developing marketable legal skills.

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themapmaster (Aug 23, 2017 - 1:27 pm)

No doubt family law. At least you can legitimately say in family law that you are practicing law, notwithstanding the relative informality and looseness of it.

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jcad (Aug 23, 2017 - 4:12 pm)

If you practicing in front of a supreme court (in NY) or Superior Court (in NJ) judge, then the rules of discovery and evidence are followed fairly strictly, even if it is only family law. A lawyer can win and lose based on meeting discovery deadlines.

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tedandlisa123 (Aug 23, 2017 - 2:29 pm)

Family Law, but I'd imagine doc review is a lot less stressful clicking a mouse and listening to podcasts.

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isthisit (Aug 23, 2017 - 3:08 pm)

Family law even though it can be heart breaking. But at least it's the actual practice of law.

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fettywap (Aug 23, 2017 - 3:17 pm)

I didn't find family law that bad at all. Yes, some of your clients are crazy, but that's true in every area of law I've practiced. You'll get good court time. They'll probably let you leave early on Fridays instead of punching a clock. You shouldn't have to ever work over 40 hours.

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e36m3 (Aug 23, 2017 - 3:18 pm)

If you're looking to build a legal career, family law is better because it is the practice of law. If you're looking to exit the legal field or to pick up quick money, doc review is better.

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lolwutjobs (Aug 23, 2017 - 4:36 pm)

I don't know if I'd really characterize either as the practice of law. At least i assume doc review has less day to day stress. I feel there is very little in terms of transferability from Family Law to any other area.

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dakotalaw (Aug 23, 2017 - 5:46 pm)

What do you base this opinion on? So long as the judges actually enforce the rules, family law provides the same level of experience, only better, than any other civil litigation job. Better because you get so much more volume and thus much more practice.

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onehell (Aug 23, 2017 - 5:47 pm)

Transferability of family law skills varies a lot.If you were representing rich people then there will be business valuations, QDROs/ERISA, lots of discovery, depos, mediation, etc. You're a real litigator, no question, if you're doing high-asset divorces.

If you were just helping poor people fight for custody, that's not as complex but at least there's still a good amount of in-court time and your family law practice will inevitably intersect with all the other legal problems poor people tend to have like immigration, bankruptcy, criminal, tax, juvenile, dependency, etc.

No question that family law is the practice of law. Indeed, in my experience (particularly with poor people cases) you can end up with more trial experience than anyone except the PD/DA. Sure the trials are all bench and your opponent is often pro per, but there's no question that it's practice of law. I've seen several local family law solos end up as judges and justices of the peace FWIW. Always in rinky-dink courts, but a full-time judge at any level is a pretty good outcome. I've also seen them get picked up by DAs and PDs if they keep really good track of their court appearances and can quote high numbers.

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dingbat (Aug 23, 2017 - 4:57 pm)

at least some people choose to go into family law voluntarily

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cranky (Aug 23, 2017 - 8:09 pm)

There's definitely plenty of opportunity in family law to hone your litigation/deposition/courtroom skills. You'll get lots of client contact too. There's no question in my mind that doing family law is miles above vegetating in document review. Plus, compare making $250-550 an hour versus $20 an hour.

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nighthawk (Aug 24, 2017 - 8:52 am)

It's about what you collect, not what you bill. Bill someone at $400 per our, collect $10. Plus all the wrangling over the cash.

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thirdtierlaw (Aug 24, 2017 - 9:41 am)

I guess I've just been lucky, but I've never had to write off more than a few hours of work for a family law client.

I give an honest assessment in the beginning of what I expect it to cost and ask for a retainer of that amount. I also spend a long time explaining that the retainer is there to protect both of us and that they'll get plenty of notice if it is getting low. It's also in bold that it is agreed I'd withdraw if the retainer isn't replenished.

If they can't afford the retainer, then I'll send them on their way.

None of the attorneys in my office deal with this issue either. So it always surprises me to hear that it is a serious issue in family law.

Also is it really any different than any other area of law? Isn't ID notorious for battling over everybill? And you constantly hear of corporate clients, or partners, redlining or reducing bills.

So words of advice if you jump to family law. Get the full retainer upfront and for the amount you expect the whole representation to cost. If they give you a sob story of needing to pay over time tell them you accept all major credit cards.

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cranky (Aug 24, 2017 - 10:38 am)

True, billing at $x an hour does not mean making that amount x 40 hours a week; I know I forgot to mention the overhead costs and some deadbeats, but it's never as drastic as getting $10/hour for a $400/hour bill. Thirdtierlaw says it right. I have only been screwed over a few times for a few hundred dollars by scummy clients who feel like they don't have to pay the last bill once the case is over. But I did stupidly make the mistake of feeling sorry for someone who didn't have more money to replenish the retainer. I should have gotten authorization to charge a credit card automatically for each bill. But I was "too nice" and now I'm trying to sue the former client.

Family law is certainly not for the faint of heart. Some of the attorneys are jerks and unnecessarily confrontational, sneaky, and obnoxious. So on top of dealing with sobbing, hysterical, sometimes lying/exaggerating clients who may not want to pay you, you also have difficult opposing counsel, occasional crazy pro se people who make you worry about your own safety, and condescending judges to deal with. So for example, in the case of that person who recently posted about doing doc review for 15 years-- well, I'm sure his personality would not be able to handle doing family law litigation for even a year. It's often too fraught with conflict, emotions, last minute scrambling and deadlines, and backstabbing. And sometimes threats of bar grievances and demands for refunds by angry clients or their family members. As I practice more, get older, and demand more money, I'm getting better quality clients, but it can be stressful and eat away at your thoughts even when you're not working.

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superttthero (Aug 23, 2017 - 10:46 pm)

Family law has a lot more upside, but depending on your personality, ability to handle stress, for some the better choice would be doc review.

Real litigation isn't for most people.

I manage doc reviews. I feel underpaid based on what we charge, but overpaid based on what I do. That being said my clients are Fortune 100 companies so I don't GAF. I couldn't sit there and drain the retainer for normal proles while my clients are being petty and not advancing their goals. I would probably end up doing too much work for free and really stressing not delivering true results even if it isn't my fault given what they pay.

When/if I lose my job I will go back to crim and immigration and do flat fee work.

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dingbat (Aug 24, 2017 - 8:47 am)

I love flat fee. This year I've only worked on two billable matters (one still going) and it's great not to need to worry about the clock

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bittersweet (Aug 25, 2017 - 2:26 pm)

It depends on what you are looking for.

Doc review sucks. It's tedious. It's often mindless. It's not reliable. It's very tedious. Unless you can get a non-English gig, it doesn't pay very well. You are often treated like a 2d class disposable cost rather than a professional. And did I mention the tedium? But the benefits are that it's low stress and usually pretty easy to do.

After saying that, I'd take it in a heartbeat over family law. The little bit that I've done consisted of clients that don't want to need your services and don't want to pay you. And the "sobbing, hysterical, sometimes lying/exaggerating clients" that Cranky mentioned are not an exaggeration. I'm there to help you solve your legal problems, not be a f-----g therapist. And if your family knows you do family law they will pepper you with endless questions that may put you at odds with other members of your family, and they don't expect to pay for the answers. But it does provide a better way to transition to other areas of law. It CAN pay well, once you develop the right clientele. But that may take years.

Pick your poison.

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newjag17 (Aug 25, 2017 - 3:19 pm)

I'm with a large DA's Office and am now a senior DA in a division that is (in many ways) hybrid criminal/family given the type of cases we handle. If I ever left, I would definitely go into a Family Law practice--I have obtained a tremendous amount of experience in litigation, evidence rules, and working with people. Attorneys I know that do it and can deal with clients emotionalism, etc make very good money and seem reasonably happy.
Family law can be stressful, but at least you are helping people navigate a difficult time-Sure beats the hell out of sitting in front of a computer doing doc review in my opinion. Additionally, family law teaches you the importance of being able to settle cases without costly litigation so you could always branch out into a lucrative mediation practice.

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superttthero (Aug 25, 2017 - 3:41 pm)

Come on though. From my experience on the outside and the time I practiced in a peripheral field, this isn't the rule, it's the exception.

Most family law cases seem to have multiple attorneys who just drained the bill.

They charge their $2500 - $10,000 retainer, drain it on BS discovery and arguing over temporary measures like visiting rights, then the client is left deep in a process they can't get out off and no money for getting their lives together. So they cobble up credit cards and loans and pay the next guy that does the same. Note, the client isn't innocent here, but no one is happy with the results and the attorneys know this going in on most their cases.

I totally get that someone with your experience and insight can make it work, but I think you paint an overly rosy picture that doesn't encapsulate the vast majority of hustling family law attorneys.

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bizzybone1313 (Aug 26, 2017 - 8:50 am)

I got a buddy that started her own family law practice. She's a solo with one attorney she hired. She worked for someone else for a while then she started her own family law practice. She seems to do well.

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newjag17 (Aug 28, 2017 - 1:46 pm)

I'm not trying to imply that any area of law practice is easy and guaranteed success.

My point was that I know several Family Law attorneys that do well, and it can certainly be profitable. Several of my former DA colleagues went into family law either primarily or as a secondary area--their litigation skills gained from being a prosecutor really put them in excellent shape for hearings and negotiations since they weren't scared about litigating issues if needed--also, having had to deal with victims on all sorts of crimes, they had the ability to work with clients and often were told that they appreciated the attorneys calling them back and being generally responsive which had been ingrained in them from the DA's Office since you would get into major problems not calling people back in a timely manner. Their handling of cases with this approach has resulted in referrals to others needing family law or criminal defense attorneys.
A couple also expanded into mediation which can be very lucrative.

The original reason I even posted was the nature of the question: Doc review vs Family Law and wanted to throw out there that it can be a good area and seems a hell of a lot more fun/interesting than doc review.

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notreallyalawyer (Aug 28, 2017 - 4:21 pm)

I've started noticing, as my desperation sets in and I have to start doing doc review again as my job search is pointless, few if any doc review jobs pay overtime these days. They just pay a flat rate. I suppose that's better than being capped at 40 hours a week and not being able to get any extra money at all.

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cocolawyer (Oct 17, 2017 - 7:14 pm)

Just saw this post.

I find this to be a difficult question honestly.

For some of you who do not know me, I used to handle high asset, complex family law litigation matters. I got paid well, but the stress is a killer. If you are not into going to Court and high stress atmosphere...family law is the worst are of law to go into. Literally no one is going to go to Court as much as a Family Law Attorney except the DA/PD and they generally just go for 1 minute hearings for arraignments etc.

Also family law is high stress. Client's complain often because the matters are costly. Opposing counsel's often are jerks. I found I had to go to court over frivolous non-sense way to much. I hated every minute of it.

Document production however pay sucks. Its contract based so not a stable position. Skills are not transferable, but it's low stress. The work is easy, so you never have to worry about missing something.

It's a real tough call to be honest. You will be happier in document review but you will be richer as a Family Law Attorney.

I made around 120-150 per year in Family Law...I would of made like 50k in document review.

I guess my true answer is to not go to law school in general. Most area's of law suck.

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