Choosing a Divorce Lawyer – Should You Choose a Male or Female Lawyer?

by Marivonne Essex, The Red Headed Lawyer

In the 27-plus years I have been practicing family law, I have on many occasions had a potential client tell me, “I chose to come to you because you are a woman. I want a female lawyer.” Often it will be a male client making this statement. The perception seems to be that as a female lawyer, you will be able to make the soon-to-be ex-wife “come to her senses” about the divorce issues. Or, if the judge is a female, the judge will be more likely to respond and be favorable to a female lawyer. Women who choose a lawyer because she is female seem to do so because they feel that a woman will better understand their concerns. Are these perceptions valid and what should go into deciding which lawyer to hire for your divorce?

First, the perception that a female lawyer will be better able to convince the other spouse of anything because she is female, and the perception that a female judge will be more favorable to a female lawyer are both totally false. These simply do not happen in the real world. The perception that a female lawyer will better understand the concerns of a female client may or may not have a grain of truth to it. It is true that many people relate better to those people who they perceive to have more in common with them. But there are always exceptions to this. I once had a client who was female who needed to attend counseling. She could not afford to pay the normal fees for a professional counselor so she went to one of the United Way agencies. The only counselor available was a male of a different race from her. She was skeptical that the counselor could relate to her enough to help her. After months of counseling, she ended up believing that the man had helped her more than anyone else in her life had.

If gender is not the primary reason upon which to base your choice of a lawyer, what should you use? There are two very important considerations when choosing a lawyer, aside from fees, of course. First, do you feel comfortable with this person? Are you able to relate your concerns to the lawyer, tell him or her what it is most important to you in the divorce action, tell him or her in detail everything about your case, both the good and the bad? Do you feel that the lawyer is listening and understanding your concerns and positions? Second, would you walk through fire with the person? Do you trust the lawyer that much? Because going through a divorce is often a walk through fire and you better trust without question the person who is holding your hand and leading you through that fire.

Yes, gender can be part of your decision, IF you feel you can relate to the lawyer better because he or she is the same gender as you. It is by no means the only reason to choose a lawyer.