Is AI coming for family lawyers?

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Is AI coming for family lawyers?

The unprecedented rise off AI threatens to disrupt many industries, but will it impact the legal industry and, in particular, the work of family lawyers?

What is AI?

Artificial Intelligence (or AI) has been defined as a branch of computer science that can, using sets of algorithms, simulate human intelligence. It is implemented in machines to perform tasks that otherwise would require human intelligence.

Its primary functions include reasoning, learning, problem-solving and quick decision making – all functions that will ring a bell with any good family lawyer.

How could it be used by (or perhaps even to replace) lawyers?

To an extent, lawyers have been using AI for years, perhaps without even knowing it.

Microsoft Word uses AI for its ‘spellcheck’ function and our banks use it to prevent fraudulent transactions. However, the use of AI is increasing. It now has the potential to conduct legal research, draft agreements and contracts, conduct interviews and even cross-examine witnesses in court.

A help of a hinderance?

AI has the possible benefit of being able to process and index data faster than people and at a greatly reduced cost. It sounds great, doesn’t it…However, there are an abundance of skills AI does not have that are vital to providing quality legal services and accurate legal advice.

AI cannot think strategically and it has no experiences to recall and learn from. AI can’t advise you how a particular Judge may view your case or when is the best time to make an offer on settlement to your husband/wife. In that same vein, AI doesn’t have the power to effectively negotiate and isn’t able to protect your best interests.

Crucially, in a family law context, AI has no emotional intelligence and it is unable to lend you that unwavering support by being in your corner through a potentially life changing and emotional time.

One glaring downside to using AI as a legal advisor is its inability to keep up with the law, which develops quickly. AI is not infallible and can make serious errors. The algorithms may misinterpret complex legal texts or fail to consider important legal precedents which will lead to incorrect legal advice and, thus, outcomes. This can have significant consequences in an industry of which the foundations are accuracy, precision, and attention to detail.

Many AI databases hold knowledge that is not up to date. Some of the most used AI software or ‘chatbots’ have almost no knowledge of the law after 2021.

For example, ‘No-fault divorce’ revolutionised the law surrounding divorce and separation when it came into force on 6 April 2022. Yet, if you ask ChatGPT how to obtain a divorce it will advise you in relation to the old process of obtaining a Decree nisi and a Decree Absolute. It simply doesn’t have the knowledge to give accurate advice.

In the family law world, we are seeing an increase in clients providing us with documents such as parenting agreements, cohabitation agreements, separation agreements and pre-nuptial agreements that they have prepared with the “help” of AI software. Upon review by our experts, such documents are found to be inaccurate, incorrect and can seriously damage a client’s case.

What does the future hold?

It’s impossible to ignore the rising potential of AI and there are many benefits to be had from using this developing technology. However, it is important to recognise that AI is in its infancy, and isn’t currently a replacement for obtaining legal advice

If AI is going to be used in legal practice, including by family lawyers, it should always be in conjunction with human expertise and oversight to mitigate the risks of serious errors.


For legal advice from our experienced and dedicated family law solicitors, get in touch with us by calling 0345 872 6666 or complete our online enquiry form to request a call back.

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