Image of a man and women's feet

Do men or women make better family lawyers?

Now, there’s a question, and one which I’m not going to answer.

At a recent Private Children Law seminar, I looked around the room and noticed that nearly 90% were female attendees. Further, the Judge speaker was female, as were all three Counsel speakers, and indeed an expert that spoke. Where were the male family lawyers?

I started to then think about my colleagues, past and present and the percentage of males and females. Whilst there has been a mix of both, it has been dominated by female family lawyers. The three male family lawyers I have worked with were more senior than me – perhaps that raises another question in terms of the breaking through the glass ceiling of managerial roles.

Resolution’s 2022 Annual Report confirmed that out of 6,351 members, 75.4% were female and 24.6% male. This reflects the percentage in the seminar room and my experience in the firms that I have worked for.

Thinking then for a moment about Counsel which I instruct, on a quick glance at my go to Chambers’ websites, and undertaking a quick ‘head count’, albeit a profile photo count, the gap narrowed and both men and women were equally represented.

Do male family lawyers believe they’re better advocates perhaps?

Is it easier to recruit women for a family lawyer position? I asked Jamie Winfield, Director and Owner of Rolf Berryman recruiters, and here is what he has to say:

“As an experienced legal recruiter, I know if I advertise for a family lawyer, I am three times more likely to receive an application from a female candidate. This has been a common occurrence in my ten years working in the family and private client services.

At a junior level (solicitor/associate) the split can be as high as 80/20 in some areas of London and the South West. The split only starts to level out when you start considering senior associates and partners, but even then, it is still strongly weighted to female lawyers.

When you consider heads of team, the scale becomes quite evenly balanced, until you look at the partners specialising in children work. If you are looking to speak to the senior partner handling children matters for a firm, you’re almost guaranteed that this partner will be female.

Part time working arrangements have started to level out over the last few years. This was heavily dominated by female lawyers but has become more even during the past few years.  Some of this may be due to an increase in hybrid working, as well as more firms becoming understanding to home life. Many firms have offered flexible working arrangements, allowing lawyers to spend time with their young families on the understanding work will be caught up with in the evening.

But Family law still remains heavily dominated by female lawyers.”

There are clearly more female family lawyers, than male, but whether female lawyers are better, is a question, as I say, which I am not going to answer. Neither do I think it is fair to do so, given I will probably have a biased view! But many will be considering the answers to the following questions:

Is there a social stigma, given the inevitable emotions involved with family law?

Are women based place to deal with client’s emotions?

Would a female client prefer to be represented by a female lawyer?

Do males believe they will not make good child care lawyers given the historical incorrect belief that the children should stay with their mother?

I’ll leave those questions with you, whilst I eagerly await the influx of male family lawyers joining the profession!

Written by Lisa Payne at Wilsons Solicitors

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