A district court administrator, business systems analyst, and information systems director from three different courts across the country agree to be panelists on an eFiling webinar.
It sounds like the beginning of a good intention gone wrong, but it was actually an extremely informative hour learning about the benefits of eFiling for Superior Courts from three critical court perspectives. Unique to these courts is their eFiling solution, TrueFiling, which combines an eFiling portal with a highly configurable DMS, complete with an electronic workflow, that allows them to achieve an end-to-end paperless court.
As with all ImageSoft webinars, we sent a copy of the recording to everyone who registered so, in the event you couldn’t make it, you can still tune in at a more convenient time. For those who didn’t register and don’t have a copy of the recording, and for those who did register but, let’s be real, you’re just not going to listen, we’ve transcribed the webinar’s key moments below.
Meet the Panelists
While eFiling alone doesn’t yet subscribe you to the standard of “paperless,” it is a big first step. With cascading effects that impact all your court’s personnel, attorneys, pro se filers, and the superior courts, the decision to offer (or mandate, as many courts have done) electronic filing understandably raises many questions and concerns from every corner of the court.
Many thanks go out to our fun and informative panelists below, who all come from standard court settings, have “been there, done that” with eFiling and lived to share their experiences with us.
Therese Murphy, District Court Administrator, Yakima County District Court
Christina Dietrich, Business Systems Analyst, Arlington County Circuit Court
Anthony June, Information Systems Director, Macomb County Circuit Court
In Their Own Words
Q: What has been your experience with electronic filing?
Christina: Just a myriad of benefits! Arlington County Circuit Court has seen a more than 20 percent increase in case load and has been able to comfortably manage it without an increase in staff. We’re offering better service to our constituents and attorneys who, with 24×7 access to filing, can file and manage cases when it’s convenient for them. It saves them incredible time not having to drive and pay to park just to file. Prior to adopting TrueFiling, one clerk tracked the time she spent looking for missing case files and logged 14 hours in an average work week.
Therese: Adoption is easily in the 90 percent range! Filers would much rather eFile than drop papers off to the court.
Anthony: We’ve been eFiling for about eight years, and it’s been a driving force in opening access to the court. We took feedback from attorneys in terms of how they like to prepare and submit documents and what they liked and didn’t like about eFiling, provided that feedback to ImageSoft, and they built that feedback back into their product. It’s important to keep in mind that not every filer has same technical skillset. We have actually built out a technical division of the Macomb County Court so self-represented litigants can receive technical assistance with completing and filing their electronic documents. I caution anyone who thinks clerk staff can manage supporting attorneys and pro se filers with technical needs – we provide technical resources who can take the time to ensure filers have what they need. This way, the clerks’ day and document processing aren’t affected, and filers appreciate the extra support.
Q: Tell us about how eFiling has impacted your court’s workflow?
Christina: The transmission of documents and information follows a much more defined path. Our clerks no longer have to ask, “where does this go from here?” This more-established process has also instilled a greater sense of confidence in our constituents, who trust that they will receive their files as soon as the judge signs it. This faith in the system has also translated with the higher courts. When ascending a case to the Court of Appeals, we now have a very low rejection rate because what used to be a very tedious, manual process is now mostly automated.
Anthony: A value that many people don’t think about is this new-found ability to measure how many documents are coming through the door, and building metrics regarding staff management and how efficiently they’re able to process certain amounts of documents. This is extremely valuable in managing staff resources!
Q: Has CMS-integration made a difference in your electronic filing experience?
Anthony: It’s rare that you will find a full-source provider for everything so, nowadays, you need to integrate. Integration considerations are very important when choosing your eFiling vendor. Something you can do in advance of your eFiling project is to reach out to vendors and find out what they offer, what they can and can’t integrate, and if they have worked with other vendors.
At some point, you’re going to expose your staff to a new system, and you want efficiency to go along with it.
Christina: CMS integration has allowed us to keep the information in our records management system consistent with the information in our CMS. ImageSoft helped us build a custom way for us to record information in CMS and pull it in real-time so we don’t have to wait for a daily feed.
Q: After making the decision to pursue electronic filing, how was your change management? What strategies worked in corralling support for your decision?
Therese: I involved those least accepting of change so they, in turn, would share their experience in a positive way with the rest of staff who, after hearing their testimony, would be all on board. I involved these subject-matter experts in any changes to existing processes, and even created a lab where staff could test and be trained on the solution in real-life work stations. Giving power to the employees and involving them in the process was the best decision I ever made when it came to deploying a successful project because I needed their support.
For external users, we hosted a series of meetings and several training sessions to expose them to the concept and get filers comfortable with eFiling.
My biggest take-way is that you need to put thought into this. Think about your staff, partners, and users, and the best way to get them all on board. If you don’t, you’re going to have some real challenges down the road.
Christina: We got all our users comfortable with using system by running through all the test scenarios. We crossed things off the list while still preparing for the solution to to be at their desk everyday and, by the time the first day rolled around, it was muscle memory.
Communication was critically important! We named it “Project Paperless,” made t-shirts, had cakes, and posted signs in our office so filers would ask us and be prepared. All in all, it took about four months for everyone to be rolling smoothly. Funny store: about 8 months in, our system was actually out for a short while and everyone panicked. We said, “just proceed like you did before eFiling” and everyone’s response was “what do you mean ‘like before eFiling?’”
Q: How was working with Judges through this paperless transition?
Therese: The judge can put an end to this quickly, so it’s crucial that we had a judge on our team while developing the solution. In this kind of project, we tend to think about admins, so don’t underestimate the judge’s role. OnBase for judges is an amazing tool! They actually hate when paper files come to their benches now. Being able to create e-forms, play with tabs, and get their job done more efficient – judges are a big fan!
Anthony: Courts around the country have not anticipated so much technology in courtroom. In our courtrooms, we work with judges to come up with a solution to fit their needs. You’re not going to have a one-monitor-fits-all solution – each judge is going to need the technology formatted to fit his or her needs. At the end of the day, the judge is going to need to access a digital case file as conveniently as traditional paper, and I suggest you get started sooner rather than later.
Have Qs of Your Own?
We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Between technology infrastructure, corralling stakeholder support and training staff, there’s a lot to consider when pursuing paperless processes. What’s your court’s biggest hurdle?
Answer in the comments section below or on social media. We promise to read and respond!