A family lawyer has developed an online tool that has ‘fundamentally changed’ the nature of initial client meetings, amid a perception that technology is being used to push lawyers out of the justice system.

Alan Larkin (pictured), director of Brighton-based Family Law Partners, has developed Siaro, which he describes as an ‘online conditional logic questionnaire’.

When a potential client calls the firm, they are asked to fill in the questionnaire. The form has 1,000 questions but Larkin says a client will answer only about 100. For instance, several questions are eliminated if the client does not have children.

Larkin says the questionnaire has ‘fundamentally changed the nature of our first consultation’ because solicitors can ‘engage with the clients straight away and answer the broader questions’.

The firm has used the tool for nearly 200 divorce and civil partnership cases.

Larkin said the first 180 client submissions had ‘stripped out’ £32,000 of ‘soft’ time.

He is now adapting the tool, which will be commercially available, to include data visualisation.

Larkin said there was a ‘prevailing motif at the moment’ that lawyers ‘are a problem and expensive and not engaged enough with the general public’, using technology ‘to push them out of the system’.

Examples include Lord Justice Briggs’ landmark review of civil justice, in which Briggs has reported that there is a ‘clear and pressing need’ to create an online court for claims up to £25,000.

‘That is fundamentally wrong,’ Larkin said. ‘My message is we have got to innovate. I’m giving a practical example of how we can do it.’

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