When I first started practicing law, general practitioners were common. It was the lawyer (mainly he), who did a little bit of everything-closings, wills, criminal, personal injury, family law, etc. Over the years, with areas of law becoming more complex and regulations for lawyers and clients alike expanding, it has become unusual to be a general practitioner. Specialization has many good things about it as it allows the lawyer to become well versed in the area of law that you need, without diverting her attention and resources to a multitude of other areas. But with specialization of law should there be specialization of clients?
I am sometimes asked by prospective male clients if I represent men. I find this a very interesting question. When I have asked my male colleagues if they are asked if they represent women, not one has told me yes. Is this sexism? Do we think that women have an innate prejudice against men, but not vice versa?
A prospective male client once said to me “My wife is a woman and her lawyer is a woman so you’ll know how they think.” “Sir,” I responded “I would not know your wife if I fell over her. If you don’t know how she thinks after 20 years of marriage, how can I, a complete stranger, know how she thinks?” “Good point” he said, and hired me.
To answer the question of my client base, I have represented both men and women over the years, many (hundreds, if not more) of each. At no time has any male client indicated to me that he received anything but zealous representation from me. I would certainly hope that my male colleagues hear the same thing from their female clients.
Not only have I represented people of both genders, my clients over the years have been a broad base of race, religion, sexual orientation, economics, professions, and national origin. By working with a broad base of clients I have learned a great deal about values, priorities, and lifestyles. The most important thing that I’ve learned is that everyone is different and unique, no matter what package they come in and baggage they bring with them. Good lawyering is about assessing the particulars of each client’s case, and not necessarily concluding that someone has a good or bad case because of any particular characteristic.
We have seen the issue of race and gender discussed in the context of juries. Would O.J. Simpson have been found guilty with a mixed race jury? Would men on the jury have taken a harsher look at George Zimmerman? Or has our society come to a point where we look at the individual, and not the packaging?
While lawyers should be knowledgeable in their particular field, is it important to you that they are also well rounded in their client experience so that they can bring to you a wide base of perspectives? These are things to think about in the event that you need to hire a lawyer.