Lawyers for Dads, lawyers for Mums

Most divorces are started by wives. It seems to be that, when a man is unhappy in his marriage, he may stray, or leave, but often seems unwilling to shut the door on his marriage forever. When a woman feels her marriage to be over, however, it is..

When choosing a lawyer we should consider the politics of that firm. For example, if you were a Trade Union, would you really want to instruct a firm that primarily represents employers? If you were a rock star, would you really want to instruct Sony’s lawyers?

What would a lawyer say to all this? There are firms of lawyers that represent both Unions and employers, for example. Is that firm populated by lawyers who want to protect the working man, or by lawyers who want to protect big business? Lawyers might say that it doesn’t matter – they simply deal with the legal issues that arise, and argue the best they can, regardless of their personal politics. That law is law, and politics are politics, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

There are some problems with this, though. Imagine being a lawyer, and having four files in front of you.

In the first case, you are representing a man who has been seriously injured, through the laziness and incompetence of his employers. There was a faulty, dangerous machine. Many complaints had been made to the effect that this machine was dangerous, but the employer had been too lazy or too tight-fisted to get it fixed. Your client had done nothing wrong, and had sustained serious and genuine injuries. (good worker, bad employer)

In the second case, all facts are the same, except that your client is a skiving malingerer who is making up or exaggerating his injuries to get more compensation. (Bad worker, bad employer)

In the third case, you act for the employer. Again, there are similar facts as case 1, but your client did not know of the fault in the machine. Nor did the injured worker. The employer, your client, has an exemplary health and safety record, and really looks after his staff. Full training and safety equipment had been provided. But the employee has been seriously injured. (Good worker, good employer)

In the final case, the employee knew that the machine was faulty but had not reported it. He makes up or exaggerates his injuries. The employer could not have known about the faulty machine, and his health and safety record is immaculate. (Bad worker, good employer)

All of these scenarios are seen every day in law firms.

Imagine what your politics would be if you were just one lawyer dealing with all of these kinds of cases, all the time. Imagine what your firm’s philosophy would be if they acted for all of these different kinds of clients all the time. Could your/your firm’s own politics/feelings/world view really remain completely unaffected? And if they could, can it not be argued that you/your firm are really (as some people have seen it) just ‘hired guns’ with no emotional connection or political conviction, alternatively that you are super-human and are able to divorce your politics/emotions/world view from the job you have to do?

Law firms tackle this in different ways. Some firms act for both sides, but have different departments for lawyers that act for Unions and those that act for employers. The partners presumably have an interesting time at the Christmas parties they host for the Union clients one week, and the employer-clients the next…

Other firms, commendably, act only for Unions and will not act for employers, or visa-versa. Much easier for the partners at the Christmas parties.

So – by analogy…

Should we not have firms that act only for wives and those that act only for husbands? Or firms that act only for alienators and other firms that act only for alienated (‘targeted’) parents?

You see, there are some very important (gender-specific?) issues at play.

If you act for women all the time, you might feel that men are feckless, dangerous wife and child-beaters that don’t deserve to see their kids.

If you act for men all the time, you might feel that women consistently use paternal contact with kids as a weapon to get revenge on their ex-partners/husbands for some perceived slight or scorn, or as a negotiating lever to hike child maintenance, and/or make up false allegations of domestic abuse with the same ends in mind (or to get Legal Aid).

And if you act for both, you are either a moral vacuum with no political or philosophical convictions at all (or a stark-staring, raving schizophreniac!) , or are a super-human that is genuinely able to separate your own emotions/prejudices from the best interests of your client. You either HAVE no convictions, or you can genuinely ignore them (is that not a little fanciful?).

If there were firms that specialised like this (like the ‘Union firms’ or ‘Employers firms’) we would have committed, effective lawyers acting for both sides. Women that have been alienated would presumably instruct the ‘dads’ firms’ and men that alienate would go to the ‘mum’s firms’.

What we need, in the final analysis, is firms that not only understand PA (already difficult) but have some political conviction to back it up. We need lawyers not only to ‘get it’ but to believe us and be ready to fight for our children.


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