Legal eagle


Maybe you've seen Marilyn York's cheeky commercials, which reference everything from sports games to clandestine affairs. The family practice attorney takes occasional female clients by referral, but has found her niche representing husbands and fathers—a system she dreamed up with a friend back in law school.

York's California Avenue office is full of art and dogs, and a standard poodle and hulking Great Dane puppy—“law dogs,” she calls them—are usually asleep near her desk.

What made you want to represent men in particular?

My dad is my more prominent role model. He raised my brother and I, who are 20 months apart, like boys—both of us. I identify with some male ways of thinking because of that, and it made me relate to men, made me feel comfortable with how they think … with what appears to be lack of emotion, when actually they’re more fragile than women in certain ways and more ill-equipped to deal with conflict. … Some female clients are abusive, or they feel under-appreciated, or they never want to pay their bills, and they’re always shocked that they have one, because apparently they thought we were girlfriends when they called and whined for two hours. And yet half of them are great, they’re wonderful, and they’ve become my best friends because I’ve represented them. But as a matter of course, the cross-gender [relationship] is better.

Are judges likelier to err on the side of mothers?

Assuming you have somewhat equivalent parenting, you can usually get joint custody, though that’s sometimes to the detriment of the child, unfortunately. Particularly kids with autism or Asperger’s, those kids need such a strict routine, and if you bounce them around, they don’t really do so well. But yes, I think custody is pretty fair these days, to be frank.

So is it possible to have an amicable divorce?

Of course. I don’t see those people that much, because they don’t need me, typically, but I’m sure they exist. I was talking to [a colleague] the other day, saying, “Oh, you had the the unicorn divorce!” That’s the one where everyone gets along. It’s like a mythical creature. I’ve done that myself, though, so I know its possible. I also have clients who just hire me to draw up the paperwork, and they basically agree on everything from the moment they come in, but they have such a complicated estate that they need an attorney to do it well.

What about funny things you’ve encountered at work?

{A losing party in a recent court case] just spray-painted penises all over my building two weeks ago. I’m like, “Really? I don’t know it was you? I took your kid three days before, and you just spray-painted my fucking Christmas wreath.” She’s writing “dick” on my brick, and “corrupt” on my windows. And she spells everything wrong. We have funny stories that happen here every week. I wish we could tell all of them. There are people who say “I don’t have any money.” And I’m going, “Nice nails. Are those acrylic? And you can’t afford $50 a month in child support?” … Men, they don’t get a lot of stuff. It’s not important to them. They don’t want to get it. They’re busy just being happy in life, and we’d be happier too, if we didn’t over-think everything. But it works for them.