Mr. Trout is managing partner of Cordell & Cordell P.C., a domestic litigation firm that specializes in representing men — or, as firm co-founder Joseph E. Cordell prefers, “guys.”
Cordell & Cordell is among the most ambitious of a breed of law firms that has emerged to capitalize on the fathers’ rights movement, which believes that courts slight men in divorce and especially in child-custody cases.
Even though laws in most states now decree that courts base such decisions on the child’s “best interest,” rather than giving preference to mothers, fathers’ rights groups contend that outdated notions about the role of fathers in child care — and what they see as the outsized influence of women’s advocacy groups — can still stack the deck against dads. Men, Mr. Cordell explains on his firm’s Web site, need advocates to counter “influential organizations outside the mainstream of society and their insistence on women’s interests to the utter exclusion of the merits of a given case.”
National lawyers’ associations don’t track the number of family law firms that specialize by gender, but at least one father-focused firm can now be found in most of the biggest U.S. cities. Such outfits include Jeffery Leving and his Dadsrights.com Web site, in Chicago; Lang, Berman & Lebit on Long Island in New York, which hosts the “nyfathersrights.com” Web site; and Dadslaw Inc. in Orange, Calif., near Los Angeles.
Some legal observers say firms focusing on either men or women can foster confrontation between parents, rather than negotiation of an amicable settlement. “They fuel the gender wars, which is not in the best interest of the children,” says Andrew Schepard, a family law professor at Hofstra University School of Law in Hempstead, N.Y.
I found the Journal article via this Tennessee law firm blog, which argues that representing only one gender does a disservice to the client and the lawyer:
…I believe that by limiting oneself to only representing one gender, attorneys lose the ability to analyze cases from different points of view. In fact, whenever I handle a contested case, I spend a great deal of time looking at my client’s case from the opposing party’s perspective to analyze its strengths and weaknesses. One of the things that enables me to do this effectively is because I represent both men and women.
Randy Kessler, a noted family lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, believes that firms who only represent one gender can make judges skeptical of their arguments: “It is much better to have a reputation for representing each client based on the facts of their case, regardless of their gender.” I agree with Mr. Kessler’s assessment.
Me, too. Which leads me to wonder why the firm’s slogan is, “Divorce for Women, It’s What We Do.”