Lawyers fare almost as poorly as journalists in the 'professions we hates' stakes. Divorce lawyers especially. This is because they’re seen as the lawmonger most likely to exploit personal pain for monetary gain. It is the divorce lawyer who really wins any bloody family court drama. It is they who ultimately walk away with the house, car and blissful freedom.
And while we all know stereotypes are naughty, sometimes the actions of a few really do affirm notions held about the many – witness Andrew Bolt as real-bad journalism and Clive Palmer as actual-zany mining billionaire. It is important to consider these stereotypical root figures, if only to better understand the reality they often misrepresent.
With this in mind, we now turn to the story of a new breed of American divorce lawyers who are deliberately targeting the “Untrusting Men Niche”. It is hard not to read that headline and not think 'typical-lawyer-scumbags'. But a repeat perusal prompts a hold-the-phone moment – “wait, what niche market of untrusting men?”
(Long-time readers of this blog may have pertinent remarks to make in response to this question.)
Following through to the original post in the Wall Street Journal, the answer is clear. Divorce is not easy, people are going to struggle, and therein lies the weakness and the opportunity for an enterprising practitioner to finger injury profitably. 'The system is stacked against you!', 'Don’t let the she-witch rip you off!', 'Fight now, fight long, fight for your honour man!'
Oh how my heart doth ache.
How is this right for society? Maybe it’s just those crazy Americans.
"It is a slightly different scenario in Australia," Stephen Page, author of the Australian Divorce Blog, tells me over the phone.
"What’s more, no good family lawyer will want a matter to go to court – it’s always preferable to settle.
"But vicious battles in the courts do occur – nowhere more so than in Sydney.”
According to Page, there are many reasons for this – high-stakes property concerns, big-time fortunes, a unique commercial culture, etc – but even in the city where the most acrimonious marital dramas unfold, there aren't yet firms so deliberately focused on the wallets of suspicious male minds.
However, I am sure there are those men who feel such services are very necessary. The men’s rights movement is alive and well and loud in Australia. Some men are legitimately bruised by terrible relationship breakdowns. Some ex-wives are woeful. But being adversarial is not the answer. Mannists who hate women are as terrible as feminists who hate men. The truth is hate achieves sweet feck all.
Indeed, when you look how divorce plays out, it's fair to say there's a great deal of suffering on both sides. Recall the recent study from the Australian Institute of Family studies which found, on average, women were poorer and men less happy post divorce. But there's also the idea that things improve with time, and reports that conclude being divorced actually gives you a competitive edge in the dating game.
So why are some men so untrusting? Why are some fellows so fed-up?
I think it's fair to say there is, and has been, a cultural shift which is making many blokes feel pretty uncertain about what it means to be a man, how society expects them to behave, a so-called masculinity crisis.
We might witness the rise of Men's Sheds as a positive outcome of the change, and the emergence of these antagonistic divorce lawyers as something from the dark side. Indeed this story about the rise of male sexual harassment complaints against female superiors speaks to the same dim side of this new gender-based power-equation.
But surely the real message to take away from all of this is that fighting never solves anything. Antagonism only breeds discontent. Flogging ideas about extreme oppositeness, about total unlikeness along Mars/Venus lines will only see battle lines dug deeper and deeper.
Relationships are never easy. Divorce is never desirable. Yet nothing is perfect. You need to go down to come up. Accepting this helps make life better, and richer and you possibly happier. And, hopefully, lessens the need for bloody battles between fighters who used to be lovers won by none but the third party with the law degree.