When you can leverage technology that provides the information you need for research, as well as solutions that help you with the administrative and management side of it, you’ll be able to conduct legal research more efficiently and effectively – no matter how busy your family law practice is.
By Chad Sands, Technology Marketer
Legal research is incredibly tedious – even for the most experienced family law attorneys. Traditionally, you may have had to go to a courthouse to physically request the records or documents you need for your case, or wait to get that information from the other party. And aside from being complex and time-consuming, it’s easy for certain things to fall off your plate, no matter how organized your practice is.
Today – largely thanks to legal research software and other technology – family law research is a different ballgame. The tools that are available to lawyers today can help streamline and improve research, from gathering information to managing it and applying it to your case. So, what are some of the specific ways family lawyers can leverage technology? Here are four tips and tools to help you streamline your family law research.
Tips for Streamlining Legal Research
1. Use a case law research software with Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, and analytics.
Remember when searching case law meant manually sorting through thousands of different cases to find what related to your specific case? Not anymore. Some legal research software offers advanced search engines (with AI), analytics, and automation to help you find what you need more quickly and easily.
For example, Casetext offers a ParallelSearch feature with advanced AI, which allows you to search with a sentence or question rather than an exact, word-for-word search. This feature will understand the concepts and ideas behind your search (even if it doesn’t contain any of the words you searched for!) to help provide you with cases that are relevant to the concept that you searched for.
Fastcase, another case law research software that recently merged with Casemaker, also provides multiple options for searching precedents, including searching by citation, keyword, or natural language. Along with flexible searching options, Fastcase uses smart technology to assign a Relevance Score for every document you find in your search results. The Relevance Score helps you quickly find the documents that contain a part of the discussion you’re looking for so you can find the cases that are most relevant to your unique case more quickly.
2. Get an asset search tool that provides comprehensive details on a variety of assets.
A key part of many family lawyer’s due diligence is uncovering information about assets – and this can be easier said than done. Someone may try to intentionally hide assets from the court in order to get a more favorable settlement in a particularly contentious divorce, or there just may be no obvious paper trail of assets. Regardless of the reason, family lawyers need to be able to uncover assets and bring the evidence they find to the court, and that means they need access to powerful asset search tools.
Rather than try to scour through individual asset records on their own and risk possibly missing a hidden asset, family law attorneys can use an asset search tool in a public and private records database like Tracers. Tracers asset search searches through a variety of different asset records, including property records, vehicle records, and even aircraft and vessel records, to provide you with a comprehensive report on every asset owned by someone – even hidden ones.
The property records search includes both assessor and deeds records, allowing you to get a more complete picture of someone’s properties. The asset report also includes addresses registered to the assets, names of owners and sellers, how long a party has owned them, and what the value of those assets are – all of which are important for coming to a fair settlement in a divorce proceeding.
3. Access research tools with real-time data to ensure you’re up-to-date on any changes that happen during the trial.
When you’re gathering information for your family law case, you need to be sure you have the most up-to-date records possible. While you may have completed your initial research, people’s situations can change all the time – even during or after the trial. These changes are particularly important in family law and child custody matters because if you’re not aware of someone’s current circumstances, this can lead to potentially dangerous situations. The best way to make sure you’re up to date on any changes is to use technology with real-time records.
CourtTrax is a legal research service that provides court real-time data pulled directly from the courts themselves. You can get alerted the moment someone becomes involved in any new court cases, and use Case Watch to get an email notification each time there is any new activity in any case you are tracking. With standardized reports, you can quickly access retrieved information and feel confident you’re up-to-date on every party’s current legal situations – whether it’s your opposition or your client.
Another tool providing current data is a real-time incarceration records search. If you’re dealing with any risky party in your family litigation matter who you think could potentially have a run-in with law enforcement, you’ll want to make sure you’re keeping a close watch on them.
A real-time incarceration search provides unrivaled coverage by allowing you to search thousands of criminal justice databases covering over 80% of prisons and jails in the U.S. This report can include details like name, case number, case date, source of arrest information, offense date, offense description, sentencing, and more. You can also use advanced tools to easily monitor a specific individual; if an individual on your watch list is either incarcerated or released from incarceration, you will be notified in real-time by either text message, email, or both. If a spouse or parent in your family law case is arrested, you’ll be able to know right away and take the necessary next steps.
4. Leverage practice management software with workflows and task reminders.
New legal research tools provide family law attorneys with better and faster ways to get the information they need, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. For the greatest efficiency, attorneys need to be sure they’re staying on top of all the tasks they need to do to complete their research. This is where practice management software, like Clio, PracticePanther, and Rocket Matter, come into play. While legal research tools help attorneys complete their searches, practice management software helps ensure the right searches get started and properly managed by providing workflow automation and task reminders.
For example, if you have 20 family litigation cases where the same first tasks are running asset searches and finding business information, you can use workflows in your case management software to automate those tasks and create a flow of tasks that need to happen each time. You can also set specific task reminders for individual tasks on specific cases, helping make sure you get every step of your research done.
Most legal software also includes document management features to quickly upload documents, share with clients, and identify any missing pieces of information or errors in your documents before they’re finalized (Smokeball has one of the most advanced libraries of automated legal forms).
When you can leverage technology that provides the information you need for research, as well as solutions that help you with the administrative and management side of it, you’ll be able to conduct legal research more efficiently and effectively – no matter how busy your family law practice is. From an asset search tool to a comprehensive case law software powered by AI, technology is there to help you with all different parts of legal research so you can focus on winning your case. Why not take advantage of it?
Chad Sands is VP of Marketing at Tracers, the #1 public and private records software for attorneys, investigators, law enforcement agencies, and more. He has over a decade of experience in digital marketing and was previously at two prominent legal practice management software companies before joining Tracers. www.Tracers.com
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