The world wide web has just celebrated its twentieth birthday. For many family law practitioners (and indeed most professionals) it is hard to imagine what a working day would be like without the web. The immediate ability to access and disseminate information is now taken for granted. For a law firm, the way in which it markets itself online is vital in attracting new business and can play a pivotal role in a firm's success.
Family law practice has already been forced to adapt as a result of technological advances. We now have court hearings and mediations conducted via video link and Skype. Social media is infiltrating our daily practice in a way that was unforeseeable even 5 years ago. I refer to my colleague, Hannah Budd's, recent blog explaining how excessive computer use is now commonly cited in divorce petitions.
Some law firms are now having to compete with each other for novel ways to attract clients online. Unless we keep up with technological advances, there is a worry that some clients may simply look online and go elsewhere.
So what will the next 20 years, or even the next 5 years, look like and what affect will this have on family law and practice? Through what media and medium will clients expect updates and reminders about court hearings or key dates? Will face to face meetings become a thing of the past? Will we communicate with clients ‘face time'? Will our data be stored in the clouds? The possibilities are endless and certainly not far-fetched. Only time will tell...
But what are the potential pitfalls, for family practitioners and their clients? There are invariably greater issues of privacy, security and data protection. May technological advances detract from the human and personal side of our profession? I question how this service is truly compatible with the most remote, electronic technology of the future.
Whilst it is crucial that we keep up with these changes in an increasingly competitive and IT focused market, this must be balanced against the personal needs, hopes and expectations of our clients at a time of personal distress and difficulty.
It is a hard balance. The younger members of our profession, arguably most at ease with the various forms of social medium of communication, have much to contribute in achieving this balance.
Happy birthday, dear much used web! Newly qualified or senior partner, we could not contemplate, or even want to practice without you!
Jenny Green is a solicitor at The International Family Law Group. Jenny undertakes a wide spectrum of legal issues resulting from family and relationship breakdown. She has experience in complex areas of family finance in the Principal Registry of the Family Division and in the High Court. She also handles cases concerning contact and residence of children and applications for permission for a parent to permanently take a child to live with them abroad. Many of Jenny's cases involve an international element.
The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.