HOW TO PICK A GOOD FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY GUIDE #2- DOES IT MATTER IF MY ATTORNEY IS MALE OR FEMALE
This guide is intended is intended to be a supplement to my previous guide on this subject and to address such issues as the gender of the attorney, the judge assigned to your case and the latest variation of attorneys marketing themselves as "Men's or Women's Lawyers Only" or "Boutique Lawyers".
DOES THE GENDER OF MY ATTORNEY OR THE JUDGE ASSIGNED TO MY CASE REALLY MATTER?You may be in a position in which you have to retain a lawyer to represent you in a family law matter, whether it be a divorce, alimony, paternity, child custody, child support, domestic violence injunction case or a modification case. So, the obvious question is what role does gender have on the whole process. You have a female judge, should you have a female lawyer as she might be better to understand you and communicate your position to the Court? Or, maybe the female judge might listen to a male attorney more and give them more deference. Or, you have male judge. The question is asked time and time again i.e. Should you have a male or female attorney? Having a male attorney might be better as "men listen more to men" and speak with authority. Or, should you have a female attorney as the female might be able to make you be seen in a better light. Some people think that if they want an "aggressive" divorce lawyer, they need a male; but if they want someone who is "compassionate," they should hire a female divorce lawyer. Should the person you pick be an aggressive "take no prisoners" divorce lawyer or does it make more sense to have a "nice person" approach in the courtroom? I've heard many men say that they would prefer to have a woman represent them because an aggressive female attorney can soften the harshness of husband's arguments against his wife. For example, a male attorney criticizing a wife's choice not to work outside the home and be a homemaker can appear cruel or attacking, but those arguments made by a female attorney could score points in a less offensive manner. The true answer to this question is that that there isn't one personality type or gender that is right for every custody or divorce case. In my opinion, it's important to find an attorney that you feel will help develop a comprehensive and well-devised litigation strategy for your case. The gender of your attorney should have very little impact on the final outcome of the litigation. What is important is to select an attorney who is both experienced and one that you feel comfortable with who understands your situation and will present it effectively in Court. There are many good family law lawyers who are male and good lawyers who are female throughout the Treasure Coast. And, let's face it, times have changed. In the 19th Judicial Circuit (Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties) we have a variety of male and female judges from almost every walk of life. In my experience, older male judges tend to favor females and traditional family roles that are not necessarily the norm in today's society. Younger male judges tend to be more neutral. Older female judges tend to be more favorable to men as they came into the legal world when it was tough for women and they achieved those positions when the odds were against them. Younger female judges, like their male counter-parts of the same age, tend to understand that traditional gender roles in our society have changed as well. So, what's the ultimate answer? We will examine this question in the next part of this guide.
MORE DISCUSSION ON THE MALE/FEMALE DILEMNAInterestingly, statistics show that roughly two-thirds of divorce cases are filed by women. Thus, lawyers who advertise themselves as "male only" are cutting themselves out of a significant part of the market. Why would they do that? In my experience, these "male only" family law attorneys don't just represent men, they represent women as well. It is a marketing ploy designed to attract men to their practice. A simple examination of the family law docket usually reveals that these gender based advertising attorneys represent as many women as they do men. I am sure that there are some true believers out there whom actually do follow what their marketing states but I haven't found one yet. Do judges care whether the lawyers who appear before them are male or female? In my experience, not really. Yes, in many areas of the State, that favoritism is usually based upon familiarity more than gender. Thus, it is your lawyer's experience in the Courtroom that matters more to the judge than gender. Some lawyers work better with men, others work better with women. Some clients need a lawyer to keep them in line and moving in the right direction. They need someone who is more of an authority figure, and is not afraid to be hard on them. Others need a lawyer who understands and can relate to them. They don't want a lawyer who yells at them. In my firm, we represent both men and women. Thus, we are familiar with the arguments and challenges faced by both men and women in today's society. If you can't make a case for a woman or a man, then you can't anticipate what the other side may do. While many people assume that men are more aggressive and women are softer when it comes to lawyers, that is not always true. I know super aggressive, female lawyers, and sensitive male lawyers. The difference tends to come down to personality more than gender. Just like every other human being on the planet, judges tend to be more favorable towards people they know rather than with people they don't know. So, judges tend to give the lawyers who appear before them consistently the benefit of the doubt. Others may have to prove themselves. Overall, it boils down to the basics.
1. Does your potential lawyer have a mastery of the area of law that applies to your situation?
2. Does the lawyer have the time and dedication to devote to your particular matter?
3. Is the lawyer experienced in the Courtroom in the particular venue that your case is happening?
4. Does the lawyer have experienced staff that is available to assist him/he in working your case? Experienced staff is especially important as they do the day to day tasks of running your case.
5. Is the lawyer a "laid back" kind of person or do they litigate most of their cases. I can tell you that in my office we follow a mantra that I learned in law school ; "The best way to avoid a trial is to prepare for one". For us, this mantra rings true time and time again. While 70-80% of our cases will resolve at mediation, the other 20-30% will go to trial. "Be Prepared" as the old Boy Scout Motto tell us.
THE RISE OF THE SO CALLED "BOUTIQUE LAW FIRM"While there are a lot of great lawyers out there who advertise themselves as being "boutique", meaning that they only represent the elite of society, I find that term to be offensive. Part of a lawyer's creed is to embrace his/her obligation to serve those who would not otherwise have access to the law,and to create in the public a confidence in those who serve as attorneys. While our office regularly represents doctors, lawyers, professional athletes and other "captains of industry", we also represent those without those accolades or resources. I have found that many of the problems faced by the rich in our society are also problems of the poor. The factual underpinnings and the law as applied to those factual scenarios are much the same. In each case, the lawyer must do their very best to represent the needs of the client in accordance with the client's goals and budget. Surely, wealthy clients can pay for more services such as forensic accountants and experts from all scholarly areas that affect their case. With poor clients, they cannot afford such things. Whether the client is rich or poor, each case deserves our best efforts.