Law firm specialisation is the key to success for many lawyers, but having a men-only divorce firm reflects the strong feelings of anti-male discrimination many men feel over divorces.
The trend towards men-only divorce originated in America, but now Britain and other jurisdictions are embracing the move, particularly since the 1990s when men have felt increasingly discriminated against in the family courts.
One such firm is American practice Cordell & Cordell, who told American divorcing husbands “we’re going to help you keep the dollars you earned” and is now setting up in London this month.
Chief executive Joseph E. Cordell said: “Men are still unfairly represented in family courts in the UK. We recognised the need for this service back in 1990… Our goal is to bridge the gender gap that has been part of family law for too long now.”
David Pisarra, founder of Men’s Family Law, another US law firm targeting husbands, has said firms like his are “about empowering men, not bashing women.” But there is already concern from British family law experts that all male firms will promote a false idea of an unfair legal system.
Susan Jacklin QC, chair of the Family Law Bar Association, is worried about men’s divorce firms pandering to concerns that the man will always get short-changed in court. She said: “It’s a gimmick. It’s just a way of bringing in a certain sort of client.”
Ms Jacklin said it was “not true” that the family courts were biased against men. “The court’s focus is on the welfare of the child. There have been quite a few cases where fathers have not achieved contact for very sound reasons of child protection but they haven’t seen it that way.”
She believes that firms marketing themselves on the idea that dads get a raw deal could be dangerous. “The premise is engendering distrust in the system and I think that’s unfortunate,” she said. “It’s engendering a view that has no factual basis.”
Karim Assaad, the first divorce solicitor based in Cordell & Cordell’s London office since the company opened in the UK on Monday, disagreed. He said: “We should be looking for equal opportunities for men. It can’t be looked at differently.”
Jerry Karlin, chair of the charity Families Need Fathers, is more optimistic about the arrival of men-only law firms in Britain. “Fathers can experience many difficulties in the family justice system, where they can often face an uphill battle to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children,” he said. “The introduction of law firms which specialise in supporting fathers is new for the UK, but I hope that they will be able to provide the specialist support that many dads need to be able to make their case in court.”
In America the phenomenon has come under criticism for being a potentially exploitative marketing tool. In a comment piece for the American feminist blog Jezebel, Doug Barry wrote: “Divorce for men firms are about engendering in men a feeling that they’re being treated unfairly by a prejudiced legal system, and then galvanizing them to actively fight for as much as they can hold onto. In some cases, that can be fairly characterized as “niche” legal work, but, in others, it might also be called exploitative.”
Source: The Independent
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