Family law shake-up needs IT groundwork

I want to come back to an issue that I touched on last week. After mentioning it in passing, I think it deserves more of an airing. The draft Family Justice Review proposals suggest greater use of IT and technology to improve services. This is a no-brainer to me. Having founded a family law firm working with a model of using technology to improve our service to clients, I honestly can't see why this hasn't been looked at before now. We live in a fast-paced society with ever increasing demands on people's time and rising costs of living. Ensuring that services offered are simple, efficient and cost effective to access, guarantees best take-up and constitutes a big step towards good customer service. Technology is the best way to do this, particularly when you look at the internet boom of the last 15 years. People can sit at their computer and access all sorts of information, whether it is a recipe for dinner, what they want to watch on television, doing the weekly shop or how to get a divorce. So this move to make the family courts service more tuned in with technology must be applauded. However, I do have reservations. A small but growing number of law firms are ensuring that their online content on all issues surrounding family law are comprehensive, in plain English and easy to navigate. It is no longer just the case that a solicitor's website is simply an online business card with contact details and a list of services. There are now all manner of articles, forums and links to sources of quality information. Is this then where the justice system needs to focus their attention? The private sector is doing this already to some extent. Would it not be better for the system to look at walking instead of running? Please, please, please get the basics right first. Insist that all law firms accept emailed documents (would you believe some firms we come up against insist on hard copy and fax copies in some instances!), put systems in place so that Court documents can be securely submitted online and allow online payments of court fees? Think of the time and money those simply steps alone would save. Once these basics are sorted, maybe then the service can look at wider and perhaps more innovative service delivery involving IT. Andrew Woolley Family Solicitor

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