Advancements in technology, the emergence of A.I. and its place in Family Law

With the technological world developing more rapidly than ever before, we look at how advancements have impacted the delivery of Family Law services over recent years, the benefits this has brought to our clients, and what the future holds for our industry.

Fay Rothery, Staffordshire Family Law’s Managing Director reflects on her experience of the impact of advanced technology during the 25 years she has been in practice:

“IT developments have changed the way legal services are delivered beyond recognition. When I began as a trainee in the late nineties, correspondence was routinely sent out to clients by post and to other solicitors and the court by fax machine. Solicitors would deliver their work to support staff via dictation machine tapes. Whilst I am not quite old enough to remember an office full of typewriters, firms often simply saved documents in folders on their PCs rather than having case management systems. Nowadays, written correspondence is delivered by email, appointments and sometimes court hearings are conducted via video conferencing software such as MS Teams. There have also been changes in the way the court operate, moving towards a digital justice system which allows solicitors to access online portals to file and receive legal documentation and court orders. Whilst it can sometimes be a challenge to keep up with new ways of working, overall the changes have enabled law firms to deliver legal assistance and advice to clients in a more efficient way.”


How are Staffordshire Family Law adapting to advancements in technology?

At Staffordshire Family Law we wholeheartedly believe that new technologies need to be embraced, and new practices adopted where this better meets the needs of our clients.

Over the last 10 years, we have adopted the following new technologies to enable us to deliver a more streamlined, secure and efficient service to our clients:

  • An advanced case management system in which all client files, correspondence, precedents and legal documents are securely stored and accessed.
  • RapidPay, a secure payment system integrated within our case management software
  • A digital dictation service, that enables fee earners to electronically transfer dictated work for our support staff to transcribe.
  • Software that allows us to prepare electronic, fully searchable bundles of papers for Court hearings.
  • File sharing software that enables us and our clients the ability to download, securely share and comment upon documents.

Never were the advantages of new technologies so evident than during the pandemic.  We had already adopted a paperless office practice in 2017, with all documents being scanned or produced, and stored on our case management system. We did not have the same problem as some of our competitors, who were left with the dilemma of how solicitors, supervisors and support staff could all work on the same paper file when they were all now based from their respective homes during lockdowns or periods of self-isolation. Our case management system and the file documents within it can be accessed by our team securely via any device. This means we were able to quickly adjust to remote working without disruption and provide a seamless service to clients.

We have recently also spent considerable time developing our new website which we hope provides potential clients with useful information on legal issues within the Family Law arena as well as an insight as to “who we are” as a firm.

For us, this willingness to evolve in an increasingly digital world is important to ensure  we provide the best possible service to our clients. Whilst the investment in these new softwares and practices have been considerable, both in terms of funding and training of our team, we hope that this all assists in ensuring our clients have the best experience of legal services at what is undoubtedly a really difficult time for them.


So, what of the future?

Staffordshire Family Law remains committed to improving our service wherever possible. This includes staying abreast of, and open to, new technologies where this improves our provision of legal advice.

But what of A.I.? Are we ready to put our feet up whilst Artificial Intelligence replaces the traditional human solicitor?

A.I. is developing at a rapid pace, and there is no ignoring the impact it is likely to have on the provision of a whole range of services. Many believe that the evolution of the Legaltech sector could revolutionise the legal industry. There is certainly a place for A.I. that assists the legal practitioner in their job. Most work carried out by Family Lawyers is charged on a time costing basis and, if technology reduces the time that is spent in for example, producing legal documents, this in turn will reduce costs for the client and enable the solicitor to produce the documentation more quickly and cost effectively.

But will A.I. ever take over the role that we play in giving advice and legal representation? The idea of a client being represented by a robot in a court case sounds like a science fiction film, but is it possible  AI will replace the human solicitor? Divorce, financial resolution on relationship breakdown, and children disputes are not simply procedural or transactional processes. They involve real people, who are usually going through one of the most difficult periods of their lives. A.I. cannot replicate the empathy and understanding that an experienced Family Law Practitioner can provide to a client.

A.I. platforms such as Chat GPT, the language model-based chatbot launched at the end of 2022, may provide standard generic responses to a Family Law situation, but it cannot process the many nuances and subtle individual circumstances of a scenario that might impact the outcome.  Test cases have been scenarios which have been inputted into Chat GPT to see if it can replicate the advice that an experienced solicitor would give. Whilst it might identify the very basic legal principles that would apply to those basic facts, its response is seen as being overly simplistic, without taking into account the discretion that would be applied by a Family Law Judge deciding the case. For lay people, it might help them to understand core principles, however Chat GPT itself reiterates that it should never be relied on for legal advice. Chat GPT said “ultimately, legal decision making involves a range of factors beyond just predicting the outcome of a case including strategic and ethical considerations and client goals”.

Much of what a solicitor does in advising a client is to provide their opinion, based on their experience in practice, as to how a judge might decide a case. Judges, at the end of theday are people and in Family Law, have a wide discretion to do what they think is fair and reasonable, or in the best interests of any child(ren) involved. The question is: Will machine decision-making ever replace judges?

A senior judge, and Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos has predicted that A.I. was likely to make decisions on certain types of straightforward legal disputes in the future, but was unlikely to replace human beings in judicial decision making in complex, personal cases. “There are some decisions- for example intensely personal decisions in relation to the welfare of children, that humans are unlikely ever to accept being decided by machines. But in other kinds of less intensely personal disputes, such as commercial and compensation disputes, parties may come to have confidence in machine made decisions more quickly than many might expect”. He also believed that, even where a machine determined simple cases, there would also need to be a right of appeal to a human judge.  His full speech, given at the Law and Technology Conference in June 2023,  can be found here 

It is perhaps more likely that A.I. will be used as a tool by judges. This is indeed already happening in China, with Xiaofa, a robot with answers to more than 40,000 litigation questions and an ability to sift through and retrieve case law and precedents instantly, is being used in the civil law system, but it is very much seen as an aide to the judge rather than their replacement.



A.I. is in its infancy, and is predicted to develop a long way in a short period of time. However, it is difficult to see how it could replace the role of an experienced (human) solicitor, factoring in and weighing up the particular bespoke circumstances of a (human) relationship and how this is likely to be interpreted and decided by a (human) judge.