Family lawyers should embrace artificial intelligence

Family lawyers should embrace artificial intelligence

For most modern family lawyers, gone are the days of running multiple correspondence clips, retaining hard copies of papers sent to counsel and liaising with other solicitors by post or DX. Family law has arrived in the digital world, with this process being sped up significantly over the last year as a result of enforced home working and almost all hearings being held remotely.

Preparation and use of e-bundles was previously more commonly embraced by the most junior members of our profession (both solicitors and those at the Bar), yet we have all been required to adjust to such a way of working. Where family law has previously lagged behind other legal disciplines, we are now embracing the use of technology and AI to provide the best experience for our clients.

Whilst there may have been initial murmurs of discontent in relation to the rollout of the HMCTS portal for family solicitors, we would all deep down agree that it is far better than the old paper system. Once a couple of applications have been made, the AI behind the system will begin to remember certain form filling preferences, saving us all valuable time. Email notifications indicating progression of the application save time checking the portal or telephoning the court.

With a processing time now reaching 4 weeks, this is a far cry from the delays at our local divorce units. Embracing even this small amount of technology into our practices is of clear benefit to our clients and to us as legal professionals.

Further AI offerings, such as Settify, which we have recently implemented at Cripps Pemberton Greenish, offer an increased number of benefits to both our firms and our clients. Ask a client to type in basic information about the relationship, their family structure and their assets, and the AI behind the system will not only provide the client with answers to their initial questions, but produce time saving documents for the solicitor instructed.

The schedule of assets automatically generated can be shared with the client and may assist in their understanding of their financial circumstances, something which can be lacking at an initial meeting and hinder comprehension of early advice. Some may be afraid that this process removes the ‘human touch’ from such interactions; the converse is in fact true as the effective use of AI allows you to spend more time in that initial meeting offering bespoke advice to your client and listening to what they have to tell you, rather than simply crunching numbers on a calculator.

We all now operate in a digital world and are engaging with AI in our personal lives without giving it a second thought. AI or machine learning, the act of a machine readjusting its parameters through previous interactions, is present in our email systems, filtering out unwanted spam, or in the algorithms behind social media platforms. Our colleagues in real estate and corporate transactions already use it to check and draft contracts and leases.

There are multiple benefits to engaging with it in the family law arena and passing those benefits on to your clients. It is a complementary tool, rather than a replacement for lawyers, however – whilst the resolution of financial remedy cases in England and Wales remains based on the highly discretionary criteria set out in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, there is a place for the family lawyer for some time yet!

Helen Fisher, managing associate in the family team at Cripps Pemberton Greenish

Today's Family Lawyer

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