Return to in-person hearings means lawyers must find efficiencies elsewhere

Leveraging legaltech allows for time, cost savings for lawyers and their clients

Return to in-person hearings means lawyers must find efficiencies elsewhere

This article was produced in partnership with Alexi Inc.

Ontario family courts have returned to in-person hearings and while some lawyers are happy to be back in the court room, many are frustrated with the price tags that come along with attending court hearings, says Daniel Diamond, head of business development at Alexi Inc.

“We hear from family lawyers across Canada that they are frequently looking for ways to reduce their bill to their clientele,” Diamond says. “It's not like billing multi-million-dollar corporations on M&A files – family law clients don't always have the deepest pockets.”

Pre-pandemic, common complaints about the justice system were that it was too slow and too expensive, and especially in the family law sphere this translated to an access to justice issue. Access to justice affects the working class and the economically disadvantaged more than any other demographic, and statistics show divorce rates are higher among those with lower household income. There are a great many families seeking family law assistance who can't afford it, and this issue was addressed when the courts embraced a digital approach. It’s undisputed that family law proceedings are more efficient virtually, saving clients thousands of dollars – and their lawyers hours of time – because to attend a virtual hearing, all you need to do is click a zoom link.

But as of April 4, it’s up to the presiding judge’s discretion whether parts of the divorce process – including case conferences, long motions, settlement conferences and trials ­ – will be conducted in-person. To attend an in-person hearing, lawyers must dress up, hop in the car, sit in traffic, find parking, find the proper courtroom, make small-talk with other lawyers, wait for their matter to be called and then sit in traffic again on their way home. This can mean spending three or four hours on the matter instead of 20-30 minutes, and this extra time finds its way into a bill eventually, forcing client costs up while access-to-justice comes down.

This change can play itself out in one of a few ways, Diamond says: (1) Lawyers have to take on less work; (2) Lawyers have to hire more associates, law clerks or paralegals; or (3) Lawyers have to adopt legaltech to make more efficient use of what rare time they do have. This is where solutions like Alexi, an advanced Artificial Intelligence platform that delivers affordable and high-quality answers to legal questions in memo format, can be leveraged.

Spending an average of two to four hours of work per legal research issue adds up quickly – and it’s a task that can easily be automated, alleviating some of the pressure on both the client and the lawyer. In the midst of further changes in the family law sphere, including a return to in-person hearings, Alexi helps streamline one of the aspects of a file lawyers still control.

“Family lawyers have a greater motivation than other types of lawyers to increase efficiency,” Diamond says. “Time is already a scarce resource for lawyers, and now it's become even more valuable.”

Alexi provides high-quality answers to complex legal questions at scale. We are a team of AI scientists and lawyers advancing the state-of-the-art in how artificial intelligence is being applied to the law.

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