Episode 007: How eCourts Inspired Us

eCourts is the can’t-miss event for the justice community, and the ImageSoft team has been a regular attendee for years. So what made eCourts 2018 particularly exciting? In this episode, ImageSoft President Scott Bade talks about the hot-button topics that were the talk of the conference, from the Component Model and online dispute resolution (ODR), to a more intentional shift to paperless systems throughout the court.

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Kate Storey: Welcome to the Paperless Productivity podcast, where we give you the tips, tricks, and know-how to solve your biggest workflow challenges and bring greater productivity into your workplace every day.

Another session of eCourts has come and gone, and the ruling is in. It was one for the record books. From hot button topics to in depth discussions on the component model, this year’s eCourts gave attendees an exciting look at the future of the modern court system.

To get a firsthand perspective of this insightful event, I’m joined today by Scott Bade, president of ImageSoft and just back in town from this year’s eCourts conference. Welcome to the podcast today, Scott.

Scott Bade: Thank you.
Kate: I know ImageSoft has been a regular attendee of eCourts over the years, so tell me, what made this year’s conference particularly interesting?
Scott: I think there was a lot of alignment from in the market is what we’re seeing. There’s a lot of ideas that were presented maybe in past years that are kind of coming together. I think we saw some of the same players that have been there many times in the past and a lot of new ideas, so it was really exciting.
Kate: Excellent. So, where are some of these big changes happening, or what do you see continuing in the courts for the near future based on this year’s eCourts sessions and some of those discussions you saw?
Scott: Well, I think the continuation of everything going electronic is a theme that’s been going on not only in courts but in general, other industries, as well. I think the courts, what we find is they’re typically a few years behind the general market because of the nature of their organizations. They’re legal organizations so they tend to be a little more on the conservative side as far as adopting new technology, but I think we’re seeing really an acceleration of moving all things electronic, so the courts can be more efficient and serve their customers, the public more effectively. So that’s kind of across the board, so that feeds right into the type of work we do which is helping organizations get paperless. That’s kind of our legacy as far as storing documents electronically and managing the routing and the rules associated with those documents.

I think probably the biggest trend we’re seeing is there was a lot of talk about online dispute resolution, alternative dispute resolution, intelligent dispute resolution, but the idea that disputes can be resolved electronically without people having to travel and be in the same physical location seems to be a trend that’s really taking hold and is something that we’ve advocated for years and our company is certainly getting more involved in.

Kate: Yeah. That’s really intriguing to be able to use technology to take what has typically been either a very paper-heavy or very time-intensive process. Within person parties, you need to both be there. At the same time, coordinating those schedules, that seems like it would be very attractive for as you said both the courts and for constituents.
Scott: Yeah, and I think it’s a natural evolution. It started with just trying to get all of this stuff, papers, forms, et cetera, in electronic form, and most courts have crossed that bridge, so now the next logical thing is to really focus on the process, and that’s what these types of initiatives like ODR, IDR do is they really take and streamline the process because everything is electronic already in most cases.
Kate: Absolutely. And so all that happened just in day one of eCourts, right? That was just some of those first topics that were discussed. So, what were some of the big discussion items that happened on day two building off of that?
Scott: Well, I think what we see is that a lot of the same players, the case management vendors, they dominate the show as far as floor space, so a lot of the big seamless makers, those same players are still ingrained in the culture of the courts. I think what we’re seeing with what the NCSC is calling the component model is really an opportunity for courts to choose best of breed components instead of being married to necessarily just one vendor.

I think that’s part of the value of the component model. Some of the other value points are it allows innovation I think to happen more freely because smaller companies can enter the market building components that fit into the component model. So, I think the NCSC’s advocation of the component model is an important trend that started a few years ago and certainly seems to have picked up momentum at this show.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely, and actually we have another episode on that where we really went in depth on that component model. So yeah, it’s really great to hear that the discussion is really continuing to build off of that. It sounds like it’s very attractive for a lot of organizations. So, what are some of the other kind of hot button topics that were discussed or things that really had people buzzing in between sessions?
Scott: So, we had some productive conversations with existing customers and some prospective customers on a variety of topics. I think to the component model, I think that the concept of open standards through organizations like Oasis and NCSC has continued to expand and that’s good. It allows systems to interact and be interoperable which is important.

We talked to customers about topics like evidence management, a very important topic with a lot of different large data types being collected like with body worn cameras, surveillance cameras, and other things like that. You’re seeing a lot of courts and prosecutors being overwhelmed with that sort of data and evidence management is a type of technology that can help them store and manage and search and view and deliver to court a lot of those important data types.

We saw some of the older stuff that we’ve talked about for years, folks talking about online forms, which is kind of old school but is maybe a required component. It still tells you that there are still a lot of courts that are doing things on paper forms and there’s still an opportunity to help them I guess get those components into electronic form as well.

Kate: Like a standardization across the board, that’s still happening, it sounds like.
Scott: Yeah, there’s still paper forms out there and people are looking for easy ways to transition from paper to electronic. The tools have gotten a lot better, so you can literally take paper forms and turn them into an electronic form with a few clicks instead of having to completely lay out a new form and a new piece of software.
Kate: I imagine it would be very attractive for organizations that yeah, maybe are feeling a little intimidated about a full electronic process or concerned about the man hours or the effort that’s going to go into something like that.
Scott: Yeah, it’s really the man hours because a lot of courts have hundreds, could be even approaching a thousand forms that are part of their process and they’re ingrained in the way they work, and they can’t just eliminate those forms. They have to have an alternative, and to move those all electronic can be a monumental effort, so if you can streamline that, collect the data off those forms in an efficient way, that’s a huge benefit for the courts.
Kate: Yeah, absolutely. What about discussions on the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute, or IJIS? Was that part of it?
Scott: Yeah, so IJIS is an important organization and we’re a member of that organization. They’re a standard spotty in an organization that does a lot of kind of thinking and planning for various specific courts and for the court market in general, so they hold meetings and they set standards. They’re a big part of what’s called the ECF standard, which is the standard way we do e-filing, which is a big part of what ImageSoft does for courts, as well.
Kate: And then when it comes to cloud computing, this is a topic that I think for many years now as this is becoming more common and more accessible to people on a regular basis, maybe there’s a lot of fear that’s come out of it, do you see that kind of adaption of cloud computing and storing documents, especially sensitive documents in the cloud, do you feel that that’s starting to level off a bit and that’s starting to become adopted a bit more in courts?
Scott: Yeah, that’s a good question. So, as I said, the court markets tend to lag a little bit behind the general market, and I think this scenario, what I’ve seen the last couple years and I think it was confirmed at this event this week was that cloud computing has really become mainstream not only for the general market but for government and courts more specifically.

So, I think we’re not hearing the fear that maybe was associated with moving things to the cloud in the past. I think most government, especially IT people, understand that they just can’t continue to invest in servers and the infrastructure to manage and run servers, that the cloud offers a premise of less expensive, higher capacity resources, more bandwidth, and at the same time, more security. If you look at the amount of investment that just say an organization like Microsoft or Amazon puts into their cloud platform from a security perspective, it’s in the billions of dollars and there’s very few organizations on earth that can come up with those kinds of resources. So, you benefit from that investment that those larger organizations are making, and I think folks are getting it in the government space, that it is actually a more secure way. Let’s face it, we’re gonna have to go to the cloud because constituents demand access to data and that’s not gonna slow down.

The next generation of citizens and voters and taxpayers are growing up with technology as an everyday part of their lives and that trend is not gonna be reversed, so the courts, if they don’t give access to their data, someone else will, or if you’re an elected official and you don’t want to put things online, then the next person’s gonna come along and get you unelected and take your position and put things online. So, there’s no question to me that that’s the direction we’re moving. It’s just a question of when the cloud will really be the tipping point and be the dominant medium for storing and managing data. I think we’re pretty close. We haven’t tipped yet as far as most systems are still premise-based, but I think we’re getting close.

Kate: Excellent. Well it definitely sounds like this year’s conference was a canvas event. So many big industry topics discussed and a real glimpse of the future of the courts. So, what do you predict will be one of the biggest trends to first take hold in 2019?
Scott: Oh, good question. Well, I think some of the stuff I’ve already said. I think the cloud will continue to expand. I think we’re seeing the big players do special things for government, recognizing the special security needs of government. Microsoft for example with their government cloud in their Azure platform is a very important advancement, and that’s gonna continue to expand so there’s no slowing that down.

I think as I said earlier, the ability to handle disputes online is gonna continue to expand. It just makes so much sense. It’s gonna start with simple things like traffic tickets and small claim cases and there’s no reason it can’t expand into much more complicated cases that would typically require trials and hearings. We know that with the advancement of the internet and the tools for doing things remotely, there’s no reason most things that the court does can’t be done over the internet.

So, I think that it’s inevitable that that’s gonna expand into more and more case types, and we’re excited by that ’cause that’s an area that we as a company have embraced many years ago as far as remote employees and working with remote partners using those kind of tools and to bring those same tools into the justice realm is exciting and it’s a great advancement for the public.

Kate: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for sharing your experience from eCourts this year. After hearing all that was discussed, I’m sure everyone is looking forward to the next one in 2020. Thank you so much for joining us today, Scott, and I’m sure we’ll be talking with you again in the future.
Scott: Thank you.
Kate: Thanks to all of you for joining us as well. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to Paperless Productivity so you won’t miss out on all the great information shared in future episodes like this one. We’ll see you next time.

Thanks again for joining us today for this episode of Paperless Productivity. This podcast is sponsored by ImageSoft, the paperless process people, which you can learn more about at imagesoftinc.com. That’s ImageSoft I-N-C dot com. Join us next time where you’ll learn how to harness the power of technology, supercharge efficiency, and accomplish your organization’s goals.

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