Family law matters — divorce and child custody matters — are highly personal, and often bring high-conflict litigation. I am a firm believer that many clients strategically select the gender of their lawyer based upon several beliefs related to such conflict, which are more likely than not…myths.
Many men believe that, if they hire a female attorney, the judge will better accept a harsh position presented through the voice of a woman – in other words, that their position as male spouses is softened through the voice of a woman. Often a woman believes that, by hiring a male attorney, the male lawyer will be better able to stand up to her husband and to give her strength she believes she otherwise does not possess. These beliefs are stereotypes and do not take into account the reality of the law. Therefore, they are myths.
A client is best served by honestly sharing the details of his or her marriage with his or her attorney. Therefore, one of the most important criteria in hiring a family law attorney is whether or not a client is comfortable being open and honest about some of the deepest and darkest secrets a person holds.
Another important consideration should be the strategy – the approach – the attorney proposes to implement on a case. Some clients prefer litigation; some do not. The approach preferred should help determine the lawyer to hire, but it certainly is not dictated by gender. There are many aggressive female attorneys and, likewise, non-confrontational male lawyers.
Most important of all is the lawyer’s expertise in the field. What judges want more than anything else is a lawyer who is knowledgeable about the facts of the case and the law, and can present his or her client’s position to the court in an organized and efficient manner. This has nothing to do with the gender of a lawyer, and everything to do with the lawyer’s skill, insight and experience.