Changes to the Practice of Family Law
The advancement of both information technology and medical science continues to shape the practice of family law, and the future of that practice will likely be far different from its past and much of its present. The increasing presence in the marketplace of Legal Zoom and other purveyors of legal forms, combined with the increasing availability of self-help resources and instructions online (much of it from groups of attorneys like local bar associations) have dramatically changed the practice of law in all fields. In the family law field, long noted for the number of self-represented litigants, the attorneys and law firms who find success in the future will be those who do far more than fill in forms and follow the rules of court.
Clients and prospective clients should evaluate not only an attorney’s or law firm’s work product, but the customer service, communication, cost and comfort level the individual or firm provides to the client. The rules are changing, literally as well as figuratively. In recent weeks, Pennsylvania courts have redefined the admissibility of electronic communications in the form of e-mails and text messages. These developments are not only important for the lawyer to know heading into the courtroom, they are critical for the parties to know. Effective and successful family law attorneys will be educating their clients about these rules and about how to conduct their affairs and communicate day-to-day.
In substantive terms too, while the issues and handling of tomorrow’s same sex divorce may not look all that different from the issues and handling of yesterday’s husband/wife divorce, sorting out what those same sex couples did, and arranged-for, and agreed-upon, and intended, long before they were allowed to marry, can be expected to have significant effects on the divorce law of the future. Likewise, while there is some limited precedent about the handling of such things as frozen embryos, two things are clear: first, the existing law is unsettled and subject to further change and development; and second, medical science will keep presenting new opportunities and possibilities, some of which will become disputes for the law to handle and resolve.
Perhaps more than the substantive changes to the law, however, it is the process and the medium and the pace by which and through those changes are coming that will provide the most challenging and dramatic aspect of practicing family law in the future. In the Twitter-verse of instant and world-wide review and discussion of issues and arguments, what is “trending” today may be adopted by a trial court judge tomorrow, taken up in a legislature the day after, and adopted by statute, appellate court, referendum, or sheer inertia in ways and at a pace never seen before.
While change has always been a constant, the forces bringing it and the speed at which it is coming have never been wider or faster. The successful family law attorney or firm of the future will be marked by how attuned to the forces of change and how conversant with evolution in the conceptional age is(are) the attorney(s).
To schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys or for further information, call us at LaMonaca Law, at (610) 892-3877