Business challenge

Every legal case is different, which makes estimating the cost and duration of proceedings tricky. How could Family Law Partners provide its clients with greater clarity and better tailored advice?


Family Law Partners deployed an IBM Analytics solution that uses smart data discovery and cognitive capabilities to investigate the drivers behind the cost and duration of legal proceedings.



time taken to estimate case cost and duration, potentially saving £55,000 a year


regulatory requirements for fee transparency, avoiding potential penalties


emotions by offering clients advice based on data-driven insight

Business challenge story

Making the case for analytics

Going through a divorce or separation is stressful for all parties involved, and making the client journey as smooth and painless as possible is a top priority for family lawyers.

Alan Larkin, Head of Innovation & Technology at Family Law Partners, explains: “When people engage a legal firm for divorce proceedings, they often expect solicitors to be able to advise on case outcomes and likely costs within minutes of first meeting—but before we can do that we need the facts. This means that a client’s first encounter with their solicitor often involves a lengthy interview process, which can be expensive and leave people feeling frustrated.”


In place of this, Family Law Partners introduced a unique online process that gathers as much data as possible, so clients and solicitors can get to the heart of an issue from the first meeting.

Alan Larkin continues: “As well as reducing the stress of an initial client meeting, we realized that our online system provides a rich source of data, which we could potentially harness to further improve the client journey.

“For example, could we use it to arrive at more accurate estimates for case cost and duration? This is especially important for legal firms, following a report from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) expressing the view that firms should provide price transparency so clients can make an informed decision when selecting legal services. The CMA report galvanized our immediate regulator, the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA), into action.

“We were also interested in combining this data with other anonymized client information to search for useful correlations. For example, which resolution method delivers the lowest cost and lowest duration? Could we identify the resolution method that is most appropriate for couples with a high level of conflict, or see how the needs of children impact case outcomes?

“As we were unable to invest the necessary time and people in searching for these answers, we set out to find the right technological tools for the job.”

IBM Watson Analytics has opened up a whole new world of innovation for Family Law Partners.

Alan Larkin, Head of Innovation & Technology, Family Law Partners

Transformation story

Raising the bar with data exploration

Family Law Partners selected IBM® Watson Analytics™ to help it make sense of its data quickly and easily.

“I had been following the development of the IBM Watson Analytics platform and the ways different businesses have deployed the solution for a number of years,” explains Alan Larkin. “So, when we started to look for an analytics solution that would help us make use of our own data, trying out Watson Analytics was a natural choice.”

Family Law Partners combined historic case data with the outcome and special circumstances surrounding each case in an internal database, anonymized the information, and uploaded it to the IBM Watson Analytics cloud platform. The solution combines cognitive capabilities, smart data discovery, and automated predictive analytics, empowering users to start exploring data and discovering relationships at the click of a mouse.

Alan Larkin adds: “One of the great things about Watson Analytics is that you don’t need a degree in data science to extract meaningful insights from your data. Once we had uploaded it we had access to eye-opening visualizations straight away.

“As well as providing easy-to-read visuals of data trends, Watson Analytics suggests particular queries that you might want to explore, spurring you to consider analyses that may never have crossed your mind. We started off by asking ‘What are the factors that drive the cost of cases?’ and ‘What specific factors extend or reduce the duration of cases?’.

“Prompted by Watson Analytics, we realized that we could explore many other factors that influence the outcomes of cases. For instance, we could examine how the presence of prenuptial agreements truly impacts proceedings, see which resolution method tends to work best for couples with children, and build additional screening mechanisms that could help us identify tricky issues at the triage stage.”

Watson Analytics helps us identify the specific factors that impact case cost and duration, so we can offer each client bespoke, data-driven advice as to which resolution method best suits their unique needs.

Alan Larkin, Head of Innovation & Technology, Family Law Partners

Results story

Unveiling new insights

With IBM Watson Analytics, Family Law Partners has revolutionized its approach to estimating case cost and duration, and gained insights to help it tailor clients’ journeys.

Alan Larkin elaborates: “The knowledge gained from our data analysis has challenged our long-held assumptions. Before, we estimated that an average case lasts six to nine months. Watson Analytics shows us that this duration actually reflects only a small number of cases, and that the typical case duration is around 12 months or more depending upon the resolution method used. This fresh insight enables us to exceed the levels of case transparency we anticipate will be required by the SRA. Most importantly, we can manage our clients’ expectations and provide them with more control.

“What’s more, Watson Analytics helps us identify the specific factors that impact case cost and duration, so we can offer each client bespoke, data-driven advice as to which resolution method best suits their unique needs—improving the client experience and boosting competitive advantage.”

In addition, the IBM Analytics solution offers Family Law Partners an opportunity to dramatically reduce the time spent estimating case cost and duration, saving the firm money.

“Using a traditional approach, it could take anything from 25 to 40 minutes to produce an estimate,” notes Alan Larkin. “With the insights from the Watson Analytics solution, we plan to build a model that can cut that down to just a few minutes. Producing estimates counts as non-billable work for us, so this could save us in the region of £55,000 each year.”

Looking ahead, Family Law Partners plans to further leverage analytics to refine its client-centric approach to dispute resolution, and further boost competitive advantage.

“In the near future, we will be using the insights that we have gained from the IBM solution to create deliverables and goals for staff training,” comments Alan Larkin. “As an example, insights into the prevalence of domestic abuse across our client demographic have led us to commission bespoke team training for screening and safeguarding of children at the outset of a case.”

He concludes: “IBM Watson Analytics has opened up a whole new world of innovation for Family Law Partners. We’re advancing our analytics capabilities and mobilizing the insights gained to make divorce proceedings as effective, efficient and amicable as possible.”


Family Law Partners

Based in Brighton, Family Law Partners is a specialist firm dealing exclusively with Family Law. The firm has extensive experience with family law issues and advises a range of clients across Sussex, Hampshire, Kent and London. The firm’s experience, expertise and commitment to client service is externally recognized by Resolution, Chambers UK, Legal 500 and the Law Society.

Solution components

  • Cognos Analytics

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