Family law is a constantly evolving field, with some of the most significant changes regarding client expectations, technology, and court process occurring in the last two years alone. The ability to navigate and adopt these changes is imperative to success within the field.
So What’s Changed in Family Law in the Last 10 Years?
Over the last eleven years, one of the most significant changes that I’ve seen in family law practice is the importance of a rounded and supportive client experience. Gone are the days of the unapproachable and intimidating attorney who provides a legal service and nothing more. Today, a client will gravitate towards a family law firm that provides more than just legal representation, but also prioritizes their client’s well-being, and offers support in other areas of their life that might be impacted by their family law matter. If a family law office is doing it correctly, the client experience from start to finish will not only provide a legal outcome solidly based in law, it will also set the client up for general success long after their case is finished.
My firm is dedicated to ensuring our office is providing as much support as possible to the clients who trust us with their sensitive family matters. In order to do this, we dedicate time to providing free and educational resources for our clients through monthly webinars, bi-weekly Facebook Live interviews with our attorneys and other industry professionals, e-books, and other resources. This includes our creating job roles whose sole purpose is to offer additional support to clients outside of the legal realm.
For example, we have a Director of Client Partnerships, who helps to connect clients with referrals that can offer support and guidance to clients and meet their specific needs as they navigate a season of transition, such as counselors, CPA’s, realtors, financial advisors, and much more. We also have a Client Relations Specialist, who connects with clients as soon as they hire our firm to serve as a sounding board for any non-legal concerns or questions, provides personalized and thoughtful resources to clients throughout their case, and who ensures that all clients feel comfortable and confident continuing forward once their time with our firm is finished.
Additionally, there is an ever-evolving change in pace and expectations for how communications are conducted between clients and attorneys. Communication has changed greatly in this profession over the years—online chats allow for inquiring clients to get connected with attorneys within the hour, Adobe allows for legal contracts to be e-signed without ever meeting in person, and technology has drastically shifted the way that Discovery is processed. Filings can be managed with e-recordings instead of snail mail, and exhibits can be prepared, labeled, and filed electronically, massively reducing the amount of paper being used for cases, and therefore waste.
More recently, in response to the pandemic and social distancing, in-person conferences, such as client-attorney meetings, mediations, and hearings have transitioned to Zoom and other online platforms. These developments have not only changed the way attorneys need to work from a technical standpoint, but it has also sped up the entire communication process, including how, when, and where a legal team needs to respond in order to meet client expectations.
With these technological developments, it’s important that law firms focus and invest in the necessary resources and processes to support these quickly evolving forms of communication, such as texting platforms and support chats. Additionally, as an immediate result of this, it’s more important than ever that attorneys understand how to set healthy boundaries between work and home, and that they ensure their clients have a reasonable and realistic expectation of their availability.
Ultimately, the importance and prioritization of a well-rounded and supportive client experience, and the necessity to have processes in place to help support evolving communication methods and expectations, are some of the biggest changes that I’ve seen in family law over the years.
How Will Family Law Change in Years to Come?
Moving forward, there are a few legal trends and changes that I see coming into play. I believe there will be a push for courts to adopt rules that are more consistent across county and state lines in order to make legal processes more universal, rather than county-specific. The nuances in rules from county to county are difficult and time-consuming for practitioners who need to educate themselves on these differences—sometimes subtle, and sometimes significant—in order to ensure they’re adequately prepared to best represent their clients.
While there may not ever be total unanimity due to differences in county sizes, locations, populations, and community values, I do believe there will be more centralization and consistency, especially in how technology is utilized for court. This is especially true with processes such as remote hearings, trials, pleas, etc., and I see there is a continued push toward the adoption of congruous rules and a single, dependable system for conducting remote hearings.
Additionally, I believe there will be a positive trend in improving court access for underrepresented and low-income families who are in need of family law assistance. An example of this is the creation of professions such as Limited License Legal Technicians (LLLTs) in Washington State. LLLTs are a great option for families with limited resources to be able to access affordable family law guidance that can help provide more useful knowledge and support as they navigate the court system. My firm has been able to bring two LLLT’s onto our team recently, and I look forward to seeing more states adopt these practices so that all families can receive the family law help they need.
Family law is a constantly evolving field, with some of the most significant changes regarding client expectations, technology, and court process having occurred in the last two years alone. The ability to navigate and adopt these changes is imperative to success within the field and is something that I’ve enjoyed tackling over the past eleven years. I look forward to seeing how the field continues to develop over my career as a founding partner for Pacific Cascade Family Law.
Lewis Irwin Landerholm began his law career as a part-time clerk for an attorney during law school when he confirmed his passion for family law. Motivated to make his mark on the world, Lewis founded his practice right out of law school and continues to seek new, dynamic ways to foster positive change in the lives of his clients. He has eight years of upper management experience giving him business management skills that are integral to the continued success of his firm. www.landerholmlaw.comPublished on: