Family Law: There’s An App For That!

Blog post by Daniel Sampson

app1We sit upon the precipice of a new age whereby we are developing technology that can teach a computer to ace Super Mario World (fun) or to command an autonomous army (scary).

An Australian venture is attempting to do something even scarier still; to apply data and technology to predict likely outcomes in Family Law cases. Is this a good idea or a bad idea?

The concept appears to be that the App will analyse both hard data and matters specific to a case, and predict likely outcome based on patterns and trends or legal precedents together with what the founder of the App describes as ‘gut feelings’, or statistical unknowns.

So are family lawyers about to go the way of the dodo? Will robo-lawyer kill off the industry? Not likely. The App may be accepted by the profession as a ‘second opinion’ resource or even a tool for lawyers to reconsider their advice along the way to ensure that the lawyer’s analysis of the case is sound or there may be further considerations.

Even despite the wisdom of an App, it would be interesting to see how the App factors in Judicial Discretion, that esoteric term that basically describes the ability of a Judge to exercise their own wisdom with regard to evidence that they are hearing and make decisions while still applying the law.

Studies have been conducted that conclude that judicial discretion can lead to arbitrary, uncertain and unclear judgments without further rules being applied. Then in that case, could the App help to further crystallise those observations, identifiable trends or common findings into legal rules and perhaps legislation? It is an interesting question.

In any case, I for one will welcome our new robo-judicial overlords if I have not already been replaced by a legally admitted Rasberry Pi.