Under Analysis: The legal scoop on marriage

 Mark Levison, The Levison Group

I’ve been thinking a little bit lately about lawyers and marriage. It seems like a reasonable subject to contemplate, because after all, there are lots of lawyers, so lots of marriages, and on top of that, some lawyers make a living from premarital agreements or marriages being dissolved — sometimes more than one marriage per client. A few lawyers even make a little spare change marrying people.

Once upon a time, almost all lawyers were men. Now lots of lawyers are women, and, well, they get married too. (Recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent prevents me from using the once favorite humor line that fifty percent of the people that get married are men, and fifty percent of the people that get divorced are women.) In any event, the increased women in the profession sets up a new dynamic, with a potential for role reversal. After all, there have been many times when my spouse complained to me, “[D]on’t you go giving me that superior argumentative lawyer stuff.” Maybe non-lawyer males say that to their lawyer wives now?

I don’t think it’s appropriate for my wife to use the very same personality traits which make us money, against me. It seems like unsportsmanlike conduct. Heck, if being superior and argumentative convinces a witness to admit he is wrong, and that results in my client winning the case, which results in making my client very happy, resulting in me getting more business, and eventually more money into the family coffers, that ought to allow me to have a generally overbearing and obnoxious personality at home. Is it really fair for my wife to insist that I be myself in the courtroom and somebody else at home? Oddly, she does seem to think that is fair.

Back in the very old days, when only men were lawyers, women cooked the meals and took care of the kids. When dad got home, he’d relax in his easy chair, have a high ball, and smoke a bunch of cigarettes, without a care in the world about second hand smoke, or the most recent scientific concern, “third hand smoke.” Wasn’t life a lot better then?

But this is 2013 and marriage is supposed to be a 50/50 deal. Each spouse contributes to the union, in many different ways, and each receives their own benefit from the joint contribution and efforts — but our roles are not well defined. With both spouses working and gender lines blurring, the result is often too many hours worked and a lifestyle that brings us lots of things, other than spare time and tranquility.

Oh, for the old days, when after dinner dad moseyed out onto the back porch to listen to the ballgame and enjoy a cigar, leaving his wife to clean the kitchen and put the children to bed. These days, I’m the one cleaning the kitchen, and putting the dogs out, while Cheryl sits in her office working on spreadsheets, watching the intellectually stimulating Housewives of New York. During commercials she’s fond of yelling at me not to forget to use the pooper-scooper to clean up after our four dogs, which includes two Great Danes — a task even worse than answering interrogatories. I’m not sure where all this role reversal stuff is leading, but before I know it I’m thinking I will be helping to pick out a bridal dress for our soon to be daughter-in-law.

Nevertheless, having lots of women lawyers has added not only diversity per se, but a more interesting dimension to the profession and to life in general. Cheryl has two sons, I have three daughters. There’s nothing more important to us than our daughters having the same opportunities as our sons. Women have made very significant gains in the legal profession, but have not done as well overall. I recently read that more women than men are being hired, but that may be a result of the fact that women reportedly get paid only 77¢ for the same jobs men do for a dollar. So, although we generally seem to be moving in a good direction, there is still progress to make. I’m just not sure how I got stuck with the pooper-scooper.

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Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Mark Levison is a member of the law firm Lashly & Baer. You can reach the Levison Group in care of this paper or by e-mail at comments@levisongroup.com.

© 2013 Under Analysis L.L.C.

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