Developed in the Netherlands and being looked at in Australia is a technology called Rechtwijzer, that effectively replaces the role of lawyers and litigation to solve disputes. The technology has primarily been based on working in transactional areas of law such as tenancy disputes and employment matters. However, the Netherlands are broaching the idea of make the technology applicable to family law.
The technology is programed to predict outcomes and allows parties to follow a process, with artificial intelligence and robots having an awareness of the emotional and individual issues in a particular matter.
The benefit of this technology is accessibility to justice. As a lawyer, I see too many clients forego retaining a lawyer or settling their matter, not for a fair legal outcome but to prevent further legal fees being paid. In an area of law such as parenting matters, not receiving assistance from a qualified legal representative can make the legal process extremely difficult and may result in a child’s best interests not being met and risks to the child not being brought to the attention of the Court.
This may sound like a predicable response coming from a lawyer trying to keep her job but other than accessibility, I do have concerns that this technology in family law matters is not appropriate. I ensure that as a lawyer I understand the needs of my clients in each matter and work with them and the parameters of the law to achieve the result that is the balance between their goal and what the law provides for. This can be difficult given separation and the breakdown of the family unit is one of the most emotional and stressful times of a person’s life. Communication is key to this being successful as lawyers advise but ultimately can only act on their client’s instructions. I do not understand from my, albeit limited, knowledge of this technology how artificial intelligence can provide the empathy family law clients need.
It is noted however that for legal matters involving more sensitive and emotional issues, an online mediator will be added to the matter to assist with resolving the issues. This is pleasing to hear as mediation is something I regard highly in my practice. Whilst the law is there to guide parties, Court and Judges are not the only option and parties are generally more satisfied with an outcome if they have been heard and are a part of the negotiations.
Overall, the Netherland’s concept for this technology is exciting and has merit in streamlining and making legal disputes more affordable for the general population. Perhaps with input and collaboration with practitioners the technology can also deal with the shortcomings of the technology I have outlined above.