While we’d all like to think that we live in a society where gender has no bearing on professional success, in some areas it can make a difference, such as in the practice of family law. Female attorneys have become quite successful in the practice of family law, and having one on your side might make a difference in a divorce action.
Women now make up about 35 percent of all attorneys, up from 28 percent in 2000, according to the American Bar Association. While women remain underrepresented in law, much progress has been made since Arabella Mansfield became the first woman admitted to a state bar in the U.S. in 1869. Female attorneys now make up a quarter of general counsel attorneys in Fortune 500 companies and are increasing their representation in judgeships throughout the country.
One area of the law where female attorneys are making a significant impact is in family law. A growing number of female attorneys are choosing to specialize in family law—the area of the law that deals with marriage, civil unions, adoption, child custody and guardianship, and related matters. Clients that have hired female family law attorneys have found that their counsel’s gender is often an asset in court for several reasons.
- Women know the law – Although women have been practicing as attorneys in the U.S. for more than 100 years, they still face some strong headwinds from a male-dominated profession. The legal industry is tough on women, with lots of social and professional pressure directed at them. They are constantly challenged on their knowledge, ability, attire, and demeanor in ways no male attorney would tolerate. As a result, only the best female attorneys with the greatest dedication to the law stay in the profession. In court, female family law attorneys often have a better grasp of the law than opposing male counsel because of the intense pressure they face to rise above their colleagues.
- Women are listeners – Far too many clients who’ve sought the services of a family law attorney have ended up with a lawyer who just goes through the motions of filing standard paperwork and does not take the time to get to know his clients and the issues they’re facing. Women are natural listeners and will take the time to hear what their clients have to say. An attorney who listens to her clients is far more likely to pick up on an important piece of information that could help that client’s case than an attorney who only half-heartedly communicates with his clients.
- In addition to potentially helping the case, listening also makes clients—whether they’re men or women—feel better. In a stressful and scary time like a divorce, having someone knowledgeable you can talk to about your fears, such as losing custody of your children or being left high and dry financially helps.
- Women are social – Did you know that only about 5 percent of divorces go to trial? The vast majority of divorce cases settle via negotiations between the spouses’ attorneys. While it’s important to hire an attorney who will vigorously advocate for you, you also need to choose one who is amiable and who can get along with other attorneys. Women tend to be very social, and female attorneys are often good friends with their colleagues and can come to a fair settlement with them.
- Women understand other women – This is particularly important for male clients. The reason why many marriages end in divorce is that some men and women just don’t communicate well. Female family divorce lawyers can help their male clients by explaining to them how their soon-to-be exes are thinking and what they can do to increase the likelihood of getting a settlement upon which both parties can agree. Female attorneys can also let their male clients know when their spouses are being deceitful or manipulative and when it’s time to stand up to them.
- Women have been there – Many women practicing as family law attorneys are the children of divorced parents or have been through a divorce themselves. They know what it’s like to be concerned about a big change in your standard of living or only getting to see your children every other weekend. This empathy emboldens them to stand up for their clients and fight for their rights at trial or at the negotiating table.
- Women can soften an argument – When husbands hire a male attorney and the divorce case goes to trial, it may appear that a bunch of men is ganging up on a woman, especially in cases where some very hard questions have to be asked, such as cases where the woman may have had a history of substance abuse or infidelity. A female attorney can be just as aggressive in her pursuit of justice, but the optics may be better for a judge, as it does not look like a woman is being browbeaten by a hyper-aggressive male. This can make the husband look like less of a bully, moving the judge to give his lawyer’s arguments a more objective hearing.
How to Choose Your Attorney
Selecting an attorney isn’t just a matter finding a female attorney’s name from a list of family divorce lawyers. You need to find an attorney who’s qualified and whose personality is a good fit for yours. Clients get the best results when they hire attorneys with whom they can establish a good rapport, as this facilitates better communication and cooperation. Here are a few things to do when hiring an attorney for a family law matter:
- Ask your friends for advice – It’s hard to get a good answer on which attorneys are the best, as any evaluation will be highly subjective. Online reviews of attorneys are often vague and unhelpful. Asking friends who have recently gotten divorces who they used and whether they felt that attorney was a good advocate for them can help you find the right attorney for you.
- Have your paperwork in order – When you visit an attorney for a consultation, have relevant paperwork like tax returns, birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc. on hand. That makes it easier for an attorney to evaluate your case, and you can also see how she approaches documentation and whether she seems knowledgeable.
- Know what you want – Do you think this case will end up being fought out in court, or do you think you and your spouse will come to an amicable settlement? Have an idea of whether you’ll need a fierce advocate or a calm negotiator and choose accordingly.
- Ask about experience – Ask your prospective attorney about her experience handling cases like yours. Find out whether she’s represented both men and women or has stuck primarily to representing one gender. Also, find out about her billing schedule and fees and how she prefers to communicate with clients. Be sure to ask your attorney about any professional honors or certifications she may have as well.
- Ask your attorney why she chose family law – Motivation can tell you a lot about ability. Ask your prospective attorney what it was about family law that appealed to her. If you like what you hear, you’ve likely found the right attorney.
Kraft, Miles & Miller LLP are experienced family law attorneys helping clients in the San Fernando Valley area. A law firm largely made up of female attorneys, Kraft, Miles & Miller LLP can provide clients with the insight and empathy women lawyers bring to the table, helping relieve the stress and anxiety you may feel regarding your divorce. Contact the firm today for a free consultation concerning your case.
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