• April 13, 2024
 AI in Family Law: Are we all out of a job?

AI in Family Law: Are we all out of a job?

Family law, like many other sectors, is undergoing a significant transformation thanks (or not, perhaps) to the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. The legal landscape is evolving, with AI becoming an invaluable tool for family lawyers and their clients.

This article explores the profound impact of AI in family law, shedding light on how can change the way cases are handled, making legal services more efficient, and addresses some of the challenges and concerns associated with this emerging technology.

One of the primary ways AI is making its mark in family law, and arguably other sectors, is by simplifying the research process. We often spend extensive amounts of time sifting through precedents, statutes, and case law to build a strong case for our clients. AI tools can swiftly analyse vast databases, providing us with valuable insights, case references, and relevant legal opinions.

AI can reduce the time we spend on research and in turn and could enhance the quality of legal arguments, but is there is a risk of AI extending to replace Counsel’s opinion?

In terms of research, perhaps I could be convinced, but for me, I’m not sure I’m willing to go any further.

What about document review? Could AI analyse our client’s bank statements to search for transactions, cross reference the transactions, and goodness knows what else? Probably, but where is the fun in that? When I was a trainee, I remember enjoying the forensic side of reviewing bank statements and the disclosure from both parties and then the issues that the investigative work would lead on to.

I recognise AI would reduce the time spent on such tasks, minimise the chance of missing crucial information and limit human error, and I’m sure there is a place for it, but perhaps not on every case.

There are clear benefits of AI, which I cannot ignore, in terms of improving the efficiency of family law firms in respect of automation of routine administrative tasks, such as scheduling, document management, and I recognise this frees up our time to focus on our clients’ unique needs, which can result in quicker and more cost-effective legal services for families in need, but what about our staff?

What about the support staff, our paralegals, our trainees? Of all the benefits AI could bring, in my view, it can undermine the vital skills to be a good lawyer in equal measure and ultimately mean loss of jobs.

Will AI start drafting witness statements, the narrative sections of a Form E, Counsel’s skeleton argument?

As with any technological advancement, the integration of AI in family law is not without its challenges. Some concerns include data privacy and security issues, potential bias in AI algorithms, and the need for proper regulation and oversight. This must be carefully considered before AI tools are incorporated into out practice to ensure the protection of our clients’ interests and rights.

I doubt the SRA will accept ‘sorry, it was the robot’ as a defence!

What I feel so passionate about as a family lawyer and why many family practitioners choose this area of the law, is the ‘human touch’. Whilst AI could transform family law in numerous positive ways, it’s important to emphasise that the human element remains indispensable. Family law is inherently personal and emotional, and clients rely on us not only for legal guidance but also for emotional support. AI may enhance the efficiency of the legal process, but it can never fully replace the empathy, understanding, and compassion that human lawyers bring to their clients.

The future of family law will no doubt be a blend of cutting-edge technology and the human touch, ensuring that families facing legal challenges receive the best possible support and representation.

Whilst there can be a blend, I am sure if you ask most of clients whether they wish to be represented by a skilled and experienced family lawyer, or a robot, however good that robot may be, I think I know what they would choose!

Lisa Payne, Wilsons Solicitors LLP

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