Lawyers are increasingly leaving the profession.
While the numbers may be dropping, the number of family law lawyers remains strong, especially in California.
The number of lawyers leaving the field is at an all-time high, according to a new survey by the Association of Family Law Counselors (AFLC), a trade group.
In the last three years, the group says, the percentage of family lawyers working in the family law field has risen from 14 percent to 17 percent.
But the dropoff is not universal.
Many lawyers who leave the profession say they are struggling with the growing costs of family legal representation, especially after they take on larger cases.
The numbers are so high that it has led some family law advocates to call for a moratorium on all family law work.
The association says it’s up to attorneys to determine whether they want to continue working, though there are no plans to do so.
The AFLC survey asked about how many family law cases are represented by family lawyers and what the average hourly wage is for a family lawyer.
It found that, on average, a family law lawyer is making $82,000 annually, compared with a family court lawyer who makes about $62,000.
Family lawyers are more likely to be employed in California, where the state has one of the highest rates of family litigation.
The average hourly wages for family lawyers are $72,700 in California and $72.40 in New York, the AFLC says.
In some cases, the difference in pay is striking.
The AFLC asked lawyers whether they expected to be compensated for legal work they didn’t perform, including legal services, in the next five years.
Only 11 percent of family attorneys said they expected that their work would be compensated.
The vast majority of family lawyer-related legal work is performed by assistants, who are paid at about the same rates as family lawyers.
The study found that most family lawyers work full-time, but that many don’t have the time to devote to family law matters.
About 10 percent of lawyers said they worked part-time or part-year.
And only 5 percent said they had enough time to dedicate to family work.
“This is the third time in a decade that we have asked the question of whether or not to continue representing clients, and the answer is yes,” AFLC President and CEO Jennifer Hagan said.
“It’s time to look at family law in the context of all of our other employment options, including the courts.”
Hagan said the AFLS survey is the first step in changing the way lawyers are paid.
The group is currently conducting a survey on family law representation and will release its findings in coming weeks.
“We believe that we need to take a step back from family law and make sure we’re thinking about all of the other areas in which we’re competing with each other, and we need a comprehensive discussion on what the future holds,” she said.
Hagan believes that family law is one of several areas where lawyers need to pay more attention to pay, as they continue to be challenged in the legal marketplace.
“The law is changing, the costs of litigation have grown, and a large percentage of families are struggling,” she explained.
“The pendulum is swinging from one direction to the other, so it’s time for the profession to look beyond the courts and see what’s really going on.”