The marketing or advertising concept:
We have noticed some recent marketing of law firms in which they state that they “focus” on representing men. I have yet to see a firm advertisement for a firm representing “Women Only,” but even the concept of firms for men or firms for women should set you to wondering if there really is a difference in how a man or a woman should be represented by his or her firm.
The representation of a man as compared to the representation of a woman:
From an attorney’s standpoint there should be, and is, no difference in the way a man or a woman is represented. What makes a difference is not the gender of the client but the background, education, and experience of the attorney and his/her desire to represent your interests or protect your children. What are his/her associations with excellent psychological or economic experts? What is his/her reputation with the court and with other attorneys?
If children are involved, do you really want an attorney who will approach your case from a “fathers’ rights” standpoint, or even a “mothers’ rights” standpoint? How about an attorney who will approach a case from a “children’s rights” standpoint where the focus is not on the comparison of who gets the most time with the children or whether each party has exactly equal time but rather a focus on what the children need in their lives and what they have been used to or what they will need now that things are changing?
Do I have “different” rights (or obligations) as a man or a woman when it comes to issues regarding custody, division of property, alimony, or other issues?
The statutes of the state of Ohio, pertaining to domestic relations and child custody issues, are all written in a “gender neutral” manner and provide for the consideration of the same factors for both men and women in regard to division of property, allocation of debt, child support and child custody, as well as “alimony” or spousal support.
The Ohio statutes specifically state that neither the father nor the mother shall be given a preference in any allocation of parental rights. The statutes also specifically provide that, in relation to contributions to a marriage, both spouses shall be considered to have contributed equally (that is even if one of them never worked during the marriage and never “put any money” into the marriage). In division of property and debt, the statutes provide that the division must be “equitable” or fair, even if it is not exactly equal.
So, one can see that it really makes no difference if you are a man or a woman in a domestic or custody situation in Ohio, at least from the “legal” standpoint of how the courts have been mandated to assess and judge situations and how the courts have been mandated to decide cases.
Should your attorney be a man if you are a woman, or should your attorney be a woman if you are a woman (and vice-versa if you are a man)?
So, now that you know what the laws state, you may wonder if it is “better” to have someone of the opposite sex represent you. We often have clients asking questions like, “Since I am a woman, wouldn’t it be better if a man represents me?” or “Since I am a woman, I think it is best that a woman represents me, don’t you?”
The truth here is that the gender of your attorney should make absolutely no difference, so far as the law and the courts are concerned, with the outcome of your case. Who represents you should be a matter of who is best qualified to represent you from a standpoint of experience, knowledge of the type of case of you have, knowledge of the judge and magistrate who are involved in your case (or who may be involved), and who you can communicate with and feel is a “fit” for you.
But sometimes isn’t it best to have a man or a woman represent you because of the situation?
The answer to this is yes, sometimes it is. This would be the case in a situation where your spouse or the other party has their own problems with “women” or “men.” We have assigned a man or a woman to cases, or parts of cases in our firm, especially for the purpose of depositions or cross-examination at trial, when the party on the other side has a “problem” with being questioned by or challenged by a man or a woman (whichever the case may be). When we do this, it usually brings out the other side’s “special qualities” when they are questioned or forced to answer, and then the Judge or Magistrate can get to see “what they are really like.”
The bottom line:
If you are looking for a firm to represent your interests or protect your children, look for a firm with a good reputation, with respected attorneys, with knowledgeable attorneys and a firm which has access to excellent expert psychological and/or economic experts. Do not choose a firm because of a “theme.” Be educated by a firm that can help you make your own choices as to the methods of your representation. Don’t be “branded” when you walk into the courtroom because of your firm’s “marketing” plan.
William Geary is a family lawyer who has been practicing since 1979. He is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, and also is a practicing member of the Ohio bar.