Stephanie Fattman JD’16 was elected register of the Worcester Probate and Family Court. Now she’s using Suffolk Law know-how to rethink the court’s systems.

As a second year student, Fattman, 26, threw her hat into the political ring as a candidate for the register's seat. By the time she entered her third year she was elected. According to GoLocal, her win was a huge upset over longtime incumbent Stephen Abraham.

Fattman’s platform focused on making the family court experience easier for patrons and staff. “It can be overwhelming here,” she says. “Generally when families and individuals use our services, they are dealing with huge personal issues like divorce and child custody matters. When they enter our office, they are then faced with a myriad of forms, legal jargon, and a lack of familiarity with how things work.”

She credits Suffolk Law School’s Institute for Law Practice Technology & Innovation for teaching her how to combine technology and the practice of law. This knowledge, she says, will go a long way toward making the Probate Court more user-friendly and efficient.

Fattman says Suffolk Law Professor Gabriel Teninbaum’s document automation course, Lawyering in the Age of Smart Machines taught her and her classmates how to program and create automated processes. Teninbaum asked each student to tackle a project; Fattman used a form from children’s court, which was originally a PDF, and essentially transformed it into a computer program.

“I created an avatar that walks users through the steps necessary to complete this complicated form,” says Fattman. “If you hover over a legal term, you will see a definition. It isn’t a substitution for legal advice. It just takes the mystery out of navigating the system.”

When Fattman entered law school, she knew she wanted to practice family law. “I wanted to help people who were going through difficult times,” she says.  Having the ability to incorporate technology to develop automated systems will change the way the Register’s office functions, which in turn will make a stressful experience easier for individuals and families.”

Fattman has applied to the Massachusetts Courts for a grant to provide funding for computers and technical assistance in automating many of the other forms used in the court. Suffolk Law student interns would help create the automated documents.