Webinar Highlights: Bridging the Gap between eFiling and the Paperless Court

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.

You’re welcome.

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.

171-comeondown

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 have your answers! Be sure to follow our Court Solutions LinkedIn page to keep up with and register for all our court-related webinars. Remember: all registrants receive a copy of the recording!

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!

A Crash Course: EFSPs and EFMs Explained the ImageSoft Way

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

163_confusion

When you decide to roll out state-wide eFiling, you’ll start hearing a lot of E-words. “EFSP,” “EFM” and pretty much e-everything. Eeek, we know! Confusing as all the acronyms and terminology can be, being versed in this knowledge will be the difference between optimizing the most of your digital toolbox or keeping your state’s filers e-ternally confused.

Spending a few minutes on this short crash course will set you on the path to understanding what’s available for optimizing state-wide efficiency.

EFSP 101

Despite being thrown off by the acronym, your eFilers know EFSPs all too well. E-Filing service providers are the user interfaces that attorneys, pro se litigants, prosecutor’s offices and all other eFilers use to submit filings and new case requests to the court. EFSPs act as an “online clerk” augmenting and mimicking the filing process at the counter, with the added flexibility of anytime, anywhere filing. The EFSP also provides up-to-the-minute status updates on filings and keeps transaction history at a filer’s fingertips.

EFM 101

Once filed with an EFSP, the data is sent to the appropriate eFiling Manager. Also known as the clerk’s FilingReview interface, EFMs act as traffic managers for incoming filings from one or more EFSPs exposing and enforcing the court requirements for the data and documents.  The EFM also manages the roles and security rights of court personnel managing the filings. If integrated, the EFM can also exchange this data with the case and document management systems of the respective courts.

EFSP and EFM: Working Together

Now that you understand the function of each, let’s watch them work together.

ESFPs are your filers first point of contact. From there, ESFPs transmit information to EFMs, or clerks, who will sort the eFiled data and move it along. If, for example, a jurisdiction was using different CMS/DMS for different court types, EFSPs could feed the multiple EFMs to get the job done.

The collaboration of EFSPs and EFMs is also very fruitful. First and foremost, it empowers filers with flexibility and options in terms of where and when they want to file, which translates into five-star customer service. In terms of cost savings, travel between the courts is eliminated, and so are the expenses of postage, paper, and ink. Truly the gift that keeps on giving, optimal customer service and multi-faceted cost savings is shared by all filers and the courts.

One great example of the collaborative power between EFSPs and EFMs is TrueFiling. A web-based portal for electronic filing, TrueFiling’s primary components are the EFSP and EFM, and the payment processor. It’s also ECM-conformant to support standard integrations, and powerful enough to serve and support highly-configurable and multi-jurisdictional needs.

Together with OnBase, TrueFiling is the preferred eFiling solution for courts, attorneys, and pro se litigants across the nation. The standard for enterprise content management (ECM), OnBase is a secure storehouse and workflow hub for all your data storage and communication needs.

The ImageSoft Way

Don’t sweat it if your court is already working with existing EFSPs or EFMs (or both!). Our innovative approach to implementation accounts for that and can integrate existing EFSPs to TrueFiling’s EFM, or vica versa, with an ECF-conformant link.

As a matter of fact, TrueFiling and OnBase solutions were designed specifically to accommodate several types of eFiling court configurations:

TrueFiling Hosted Courts: For courts new to eFiling, ImageSoft’s hosted TrueFiling and OnBase solutions will be used for filing and managing electronic documents.

Local On-Premise Courts: For courts that have already invested in an EDMS, ImageSoft provides the option to use either a hosted or local filing review while archiving and storing all eFiled documents in OnBase.

Third-Party Hosted Courts: Courts currently using an EFM from a different vendor will receive ImageSoft support for its third-party EFMs and EFSPs while eFiled documents are archived and stored in either OnBase or the court’s existing repository.

Choosing TrueFiling also means added value with the electronic commerce module, which allows filers access to court-approved electronic case files. With the electronic commerce module, courts can give filers the option of viewing and/or purchasing the entire list of filings associated with a case.

Tell Me More About TrueFiling!

Whether you feel that TrueFiling is definitely right for you, or you just want to learn more about all things “e,” send us a message. Our product experts and representatives love to chat about e-everything.

If you’re already using eFiling, how could you take efficiency to the next step? If you’re not, what’s holding you back?

 

 

Scammers in the System: Florida Enforces Stricter eFiling Security Measures

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

156_escammerThere’s always one.

After a scammer was able to hack an attorney’s eFiling account and take off with $130,000, Florida Courts E-Filing Authority was understandably shaken. Realizing such a vulnerability in its midst, the board quickly removed all non-lawyer eFiling accounts, which included the right-hand people of many lawyers – office managers.

Office managers typically rely on the eFiling portals to assist their law firms with managing cases, tracking files and payments, and more. Rather than creating their own account, many attorneys rely on their office managers’ accounts to perform their eFilings.

While there are still secure systems in place for pro se litigants and other non-lawyers to eFile, Florida lawyers will now have to submit their electronic files through an account attached to their bar number. If an attorney wishes to create any additional accounts, they will need to undergo a more extensive inspection by portal operators.

Speaking of Security…

Prior to eFiling, paper files were literally tossed a clerk’s desk where they sat until they were processed. Anyone could have picked up the file and stolen a client’s identity or other sensitive information. Developed to be more efficient and protective than paper-reliant processes, eFiling added an extra layer of armor to the security of every file. In such a technologically advanced era, eFiling must continuously evolve to strengthen its cybersecurity tactics.

A prime example of this is TrueFiling by ImageSoft, which just released its 3.0 version. With a continued focus on scam-proofed security measures, TrueFiling’s format is now similar to that of LinkedIn: Filers can send connection requests to other clients, attorneys, office managers, and more, and an accepted request will exist as consent between the two or more users. This step ensures that users cannot slyly add another contact as a service recipient. Filers must first be connected with one another as to acknowledge them as a party on a specific case.

Another TrueFiling security measure is the use of an administrative account for a law firm. Any person who registers to eFile as a representative of a law firm must be approved by an eFiling administrator of the law firm. This extra step enables the support staff to continue doing their job under their own, approved accounts, which actually strengthens security since attorneys aren’t sharing their passwords and account information with anyone. And with TrueFiling’s full audit trail, you can track and hold accountable those who were working on a file. If an entire office’s support staff is sharing and working under one attorney’s account, all that’s known is that “someone” was working on the file. With TrueFiling, there is no gray area – only full transparency.

Stepping toward upped security, TrueFiling also requires every filer be a registered user with an e-mail address. Sure, scammers could try to fake an email address to look like an attorney, but eFiling would then take some extra steps. By integrating TrueFiling’s software with that state’s Bar, the user’s bar number would have to be validated before he or she is deemed a registered user. You could further enhance the system’s functionality to only allow one bar number per user, which would be more than sufficient since support staff would maintain their own accounts.

Avoiding Future Flubs Everywhere

The connection-request process or law firm administrative oversight demands approval and accountability through each step of the eFiling process. This empowers attorneys to better protect their clients by harnessing complete control over who is accessing their cases and files. By applying this checks-and-balances type system, every eFiling application can avoid a scammer slithering into their case in the first place. And allow assistants to file on behalf of an attorney.

What security checkpoints does your court’s, office’s, or law firm’s eFiling system use?

What Prosecutors Want and Need

By: Kevin Ledgister, Marketing Manager, ImageSoft

152_bankersboxesA day in the life of prosecuting attorneys is defined by the materials in their case files (often stored in banker’s boxes)…evidence, testimony and research. The piles of paperwork grow exponentially, with police reports, photos, victim and witness statements, discovery and investigation reports, and so on. Moving from arraignment, bail hearings, and motion hearings to trials – each step multiplies the size of the file. As prosecutors research precedent and review statutes, and coordinate with other attorneys, the court, police and other professionals – the pile grows.

No wonder some prosecuting attorneys arrive at the courthouse with banker’s boxes filled with paper.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Technology is simplifying the way prosecuting attorneys deal with case files, by automating them and including functions to scan and store all types of documents, photos and video and audio files.

Prosecutors looking for ways to eliminate paper files should look for best-in-class solutions with these features.

Comprehensive electronic case file and workflow solution

Any solution designed for prosecuting attorneys should aid communication, manage discovery and related materials and be accessible via any smart device. The best solutions mirror how stakeholders interact with paper files by automating tasks such as searching cases by metadata, color-coding case files, and creating reporting dashboards that provide transparency and easy access. Such solutions should simplify the predictable, repeated steps following routing rules and process steps.

Above all else, they must integrate with any good functioning case management system already in place.

Web-based eFiling

Web-based eFiling for law enforcement reduces paper handling and travel time to locate and obtain documents. These functions should integrate with the prosecutor’s case management and enterprise content management systems to create a paperless process.

Communication/integration with law enforcement

Prosecutors need a solution that manages the communication and interaction between law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office. Importantly, it should incorporate an electronic warrant request submission process. It should include such features as automated evidence submittal and subpoena management. To be fully functional, it should be integrated with law enforcement’s own records management system and include:

  • Automated workflow to efficiently review and screen prosecution requests.
  • Electronic discovery and digital management of all discovery materials.
  • Easy and intuitive document capture features, including electronic document management, filing, and scanning.
  • Automatic indexing of court notices, dispositions, electronic citations and any other documents from law enforcement to the electronic case file with no need for manual intervention.
  • Electronic subpoena management
  • Docket management so electronic case files are synced with the court docket.

Electronic discovery

A fully integrated and automatic discovery solution is necessary. It should streamline the receipt of initiating attorney appearance documents. A best-practices solution then would select discoverable documents, including photos, and audio and video files, and send them to the attorney of record with an automated discovery email function.

Electronic subpoenas

An electronic subpoena process should begin once a court notice has been received. As witnesses are selected, it should automatically generate personal subpoenas and send them to law enforcement. It then should automatically create a subpoena status report to track the service of subpoenas that attorneys can check while in court. As law enforcement enters the serve status in the system, the solution should update the electronic case file.

Docket management

Prosecuting attorneys need an automated docket management process to assign and manage cases according to the court’s docket calendar. Rather than having to pull physical case files, prosecutors should be able to access the court’s dockets and electronically sync their case files via a simple key sequence. Whether automatically assigned based on pre-configured rules or manually assigned, court events should be managed by prosecutors using a docket management queue. The solution should include the routing of case files in real time from the courtroom to support staff at the end of a hearing.

Electronic signature tools

Electronic signature tools speed up justice, using tablets to sign complaints or petitions, rather than paper documents. They are a must-have on the list of potential solution features.

Built-in alerts

Time-sensitive activities require staff accountability; built-in alerts and notifications streamline processes and help staff meet deadlines.

Redaction processes

Electronically controlling confidential information and redacting sensitive information serve to protect victims. Make sure the cause of victim’s rights and redaction process are fully integrated into the workflow.

How to Retire the Banker’s Boxes

Prosecutors can and should shed the burden of banker’s boxes filled with paper by selecting a technology solution the incorporates an electronic casefile and workflow solution.

Need more information about solutions for prosecutors? Contact ImageSoft today.

Star Trek, Component Model and ECM

By Kevin Ledgister, Marketing Manager, ImageSoft

144_mirrormirrorAs a Star Trek fan, I grew up watching the original series and one of my favorite episodes was one where a transporter accidentally launched Captain Kirk into a parallel universe. It intrigued me that two separate universes had the same people, the same spaceship, but very different cultures (and moustaches).

At a recent Hyland Partner conference in Cleveland, I couldn’t help but notice how developments in the enterprise content management (ECM) industry parallel what’s happening in the justice industry. In the justice space, the big news in terms of the future of technology is the Application Component Model, as championed by the National Center for State Courts and drafted by the Joint Technology Council.

The Component Model was drafted to address the slow pace of innovation with courts. It’s not that innovative technology is not available, it’s that courts purchase monolithic applications that have broad (but sometimes uselessly shallow) functionality that locks them into a particular vendor. This means that if you don’t like how your case management system handles document generation (or maybe not at all), you believe you have no recourse. Manual Word templates it is. The current state of affairs is that the majority of technology vendors have little to no interest to integrate with other applications, particularly in areas that compete with their own products.

Instead, the Component Model proposes that applications should be developed in smaller, detachable chunks that are designed to naturally integrate with other applications. For example, if a court only needs one key area of functionality, e.g. document generation, it can add that component without having to replace the entire case management system. Both the case management system and the document generation micro application can easily exchange the data that makes it possible for almost “snap-in” integration. This allows a court to implement best-of-breed solutions that provide a high degree of functionality, with minimal impact to operations, at a much faster pace.

The industry trend within ECM is following the same path. Historically, to access the advanced features of an ECM solution it required that you actually be logged into the client application which sometimes can be a clumsy transition. Today with OnBase, we can make small bits of ECM functionality available within a core application without having to load the entire ECM client. For instance, while in a case management solution, a function key could be used to generate an order even though the case management system does not possess that functionality natively. To the user, new functionality was added to their familiar interface. For the court, they just saved hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) in replacing a still working and supported case management system. That’s just one example of the many ways that a court can leverage small functional blocks within core applications and gain a faster path to a digital transformation.

ImageSoft has always pursued this kind of model as technology allowed. All of our solutions, whether it’s eFiling, workflow and ECM or eBench, are all designed to be integrated with existing case management systems. When you design your software that way, you have to design it to be able to exchange data in many different ways and include tools that can get around intransigent vendors that aren’t interested in connecting with other solutions. It will likely take years for the rest of the industry to catch up where a philosophy of openness and data exchange permeates the development and design of court applications. You can’t just beam into a parallel universe.

Thankfully, we are already there. Every one of our court projects involves integrating with an existing case management system or core application. And, we are working on the next generation of rich, consumable components that addresses the various gaps that courts have to achieve for an efficient, paperless case flow.

What do you think of this approach?

3 Reasons Why You’re Not eFiling and How to Overcome the Challenges

60_progressElectronic filing means switching up a workflow process that’s been utilized for decades in the courts and government industry, where change isn’t always welcome. But if change makes your job easier and increases access to justice for your constituents, why not eFile?

If you’re pondering the idea, let’s run through your list of eFiling doubts so you don’t delay the possible easy life.

1. Courts can’t afford to replace the case management system

The infrastructure in many of the courts is archaic and if a court’s case management system was last installed in 1985, it’s far from current. Many clerks think they have to replace their case management system—a huge expense and time commitment.

Overcome the challenge:

We will integrate with your current technology using our electronic filing solution, so you don’t have to buy all new. In most cases, we can find ways to connect to your application where we can pull data and we have worked with case management vendors to update their software so that information flows in both directions, reducing the keying and extra steps to keep the systems in sync. ImageSoft is one of a few companies that embraces interoperability and we send eFiling documents and metadata to any document management system.

Our electronic filing solution, TrueFiling, was developed to integrate with any case management system new and old. This technology allows litigants to electronically file case documents, such as pleadings, motions and petitions. The clerk staff now has an intake queue to review the electronically filed documents to make sure the parties filed the documents in the correct case. Once accepted, the statutory fees are collected, the case management system is updated, the electronic image is stored in the document management system, simplifying the intake process. When eFiling allows clerks to review a queue and accept documents electronically without having to scan them it’s a huge time saver.

2. Judges don’t see the benefits of using electronic records in the courtroom

Many judges are reluctant to bring technology into the courtroom. There is still comfort in having a clerk print out documents and deliver folders to their chambers for the day’s court cases. And if judges prefer a paper folder the clerks have to go and print material they didn’t even have to index or scan in the first place. You end up printing out everything, putting in a court folder which ends up in a court filing room, so you can cart the day’s files to the judge.

Overcome the challenge:

Even if judges aren’t ready, you and the other clerks get huge benefits in being able to pull and organize data. We can still make your life easier by narrowing in on the specific documents needed with our eFiling and OnBase solution. Our system automatically can pull court docket information from your case management system and create docket folders by case, date and judge with the appropriate filings. And if you need to provide additional documents for the judge, any related case documents that are stored in our system are only a click away for easy sorting and filtering. You can save tremendous time with our eFiling solution when the documents and data you need are organized and automated the day you need to get them to the judge.

3. You don’t want to add more work for the clerks

With rapid turnover with clerks and retiring government staffers, the courts have to do more with less people. In a typical court, multiple clerks may get filings that come in with stacked papers and divvy up the work and track it and then file the folders and possibly stamp them.

Overcome the challenge:

You may think you don’t have an effective way to manage documents, but we solve this with our powerful Filing Review feature, providing a way to manage the process. First, instead of having a different track for paper and electronic filings, we provide a solution to digitize all of your paper filings so that you only have one process to manage. You can assign work electronically or allow the system to balance out the work. And if a clerk is out sick, a simple drag-and-drop reassigns the work. All files are managed electronically, consistently and mundane tasks are automated, so more filings can be handled with the same number of people.

With our eFiling systems we are making your life easier and taking away the pain of printing and copying paper. We automate the process of the credit card fee and we electronically route documents around the court based on rules. And with a push of a button a judge can sign a document electronically decreasing turn-around time tremendously. You easily expand your electronic records capability with eFiling without putting an extra burden on your clerk staff.

What’s been your biggest challenge keeping you from eFiling?

The Year in Review: Revolutionizing How Courts Adopt New Technologies

By Dave Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer, ImageSoft

goodbye-2017-welcome-2018-1024x5761_0ImageSoft enjoyed a banner year in 2017, growing our team by more than 20% and breaking all kinds of company records for new bookings, solutions implemented and delivery efficiency. Yet what excites us most is the way we’ve revolutionized how courts adopt new technologies. We’ve broken down long-standing barriers that have kept courts chained to monolithic systems, stifled in their efforts to modernize. Let me share a few highlights illustrating how ImageSoft is pioneering the Component Model in thought, word, and deed.

The Component Model in Thought

Court technology experts at organizations such as the National Center for State Courts, the National Association of Court Managers and the Conference of State Court Administrators all agree that the future of justice technology centers on the Component Model. Courts have traditionally been tied to a single technology vendor, resigning themselves to only those applications provided by that one vendor, or forced to absorb the high risk and financial outlay of attempting custom integrations with a new vendor’s products. ImageSoft, a 20-year veteran systems integrator, is changing all that. In September, we delivered a standing-room-only presentation on the Component Model at the Court Technology Conference in Salt Lake City, demonstrating how a best-of-breed approach allows courts to purchase solutions from a variety of vendors and make them work together seamlessly.

The key to this method rests in standardization of interfaces between components. Here again, ImageSoft has taken a leadership role by serving on the OASIS Legal XML Electronic Court Filing (ECF) Technical Committee, defining the ECF standards which have become a requirement for most new eFiling system procurements nationwide.

We also transformed our June customer event from our former justice-focused theme to a broader-based showcase of a variety of technologies. The shift was designed to let our court customers see how corporate and other governmental entities use OnBase by Hyland to facilitate automated workflow and document management. Many valuable lessons were learned by bringing our diverse clientele together under one roof to explore the possibilities. We invite you to join us for our next customer event, Velocity, February 27-28, 2018, in Novi, Michigan.

The Component Model in Word

Courts pursuing modernization face many challenges surrounding defining the scope and requirements for their initiatives. A language barrier creates confusion between court personnel and solution providers. Some vendors lack sufficient understanding of court processes, and many court staff cannot comprehend the technical jargon used by vendors. The result is that solutions delivered often fail to satisfy the original intent of the project sponsors.

Early in 2017, ImageSoft instituted a new approach to delivering justice solutions, blending the best aspects of waterfall and agile project management methodologies. On the front end, we employ a collaborative process of gathering requirements, aided by our decades of experience working with courts. Then, rather than writing hundreds of pages of technical specifications, we deliver a solutions requirements document (SRD) composed as user stories, written in the common language of court personnel. Each court staff member–judge, clerk, judicial assistant, prosecutor, administrator–can review their section of the SRD to ensure that their needs are appropriately captured and addressed.

On the back end, we build and deliver the solution iteratively, giving our clients the opportunity to see the system every two to four weeks, to ensure that we’ve stayed true to their goals. This process not only keeps the project on track, but also provides early training sessions to enable court staff to gain more familiarity with the new system well before go-live. They can also see how well the new solution will integrate with their existing CMS—a sneak preview of the Component Model in action.

The Component Model in Deed

We do not, however, merely think and talk about the Component Model. We deliver it. In May, the Michigan State Court Administrative Office contracted with us to bring a statewide eFiling solution to over 240 courts, selecting us in part due to our ability to integrate with various case management systems. Dozens of such CMS products are in use across the Great Lakes State’s 83 counties, and we have taken on the task of interfacing with them while implementing eFiling. We have already succeeded with four pilot courts, which utilize a mix of big-name vendor CMS products and locally-developed systems.

We also brought the Component Model to life at Cleveland Municipal Court, one of the nation’s largest, where we coupled the superior document management capabilities of OnBase with the court’s existing commercial off-the-shelf CMS. A paperless court since November, Cleveland Municipal’s documents are now stored and routed electronically to improve security, efficiency and accessibility.

Looking Ahead

As the justice technology community continues to extol the benefits of the Component Model in thought and word, ImageSoft will continue to deliver it in deed. Already for 2018, we have numerous projects in the works for state agencies and large municipalities seeking to modernize their court systems using a best-of-breed strategy. We look forward to leading the charge, helping courts nationwide ease their way into 21st century innovation, one component at a time.

eFiling is Coming Soon to your State – The Advantages of Mandatory vs. Permissive eFiling

By Brad Smith, Senior Justice Consultant, ImageSoft

When I started working on my first state and local court electronic filing project in 1998, I truly felt that it would be adopted much like computer assisted legal research offered by LexisNexis and Westlaw.

Here we are, nearly 20 years later, and state and local courts are finally dipping their toes into the eFiling water. iStock_000011704687_Medium

Unlike the Federal Courts CM/ECF (Case Management / Electronic Files) system which started mandating electronic filing in the early 2000s, state courts have struggled with adopting electronic filing, let alone making the decision to mandate eFiling for civil and criminal cases.

Texas launched an eFiling portal in 2003, which allowed for permissive eFiling on a county-by-county basis. What the state realized after 10-plus years of “go-lives” and an 18 percent adoption rate, is that permissive eFiling is a nightmare for the attorneys, Clerk of Courts offices and the judges.


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For the attorneys and their staff, it becomes very difficult to keep track of which cases or jurisdictions allow for eFiling and which do not. For firms operating statewide in Texas, for example, that would mean your legal assistants / paralegals would need to monitor cases in all 254 counties.

For Clerk of Courts, permissive eFiling presented challenges as well. The office processes an incredible number of cases each year and workflow is critical to keeping the court records accurate and available to the public, attorneys and judges in their jurisdiction. In the permissive environment, the clerk’s staff now needs to operate both a paper workflow queue and an electronic workflow queue to maintain the court records, which adds time and complexity to their jobs.

Even judges, who traditionally use paper court files even when their clerk’s office has taken the time and effort to scan over the counter filings, do not have timely access to electronic court records in a permissive eFiling environment. The steps that are required to convert paper pleadings into electronic images (intake, scan and file) can take up to 24 hours, while eFiled pleadings processed by the clerks’ staff are immediately accessible to the judges via their document management system or judicial dashboard.

The Advantages of Mandated eFiling

Just in the last four years, Florida (Civil and Criminal) and Texas (Civil) have mandated eFiling, while Indiana and Illinois have released mandatory eFiling schedules for 2017 and 2018. While it’s not surprising news by itself, the fact that these mandates are taking place in states that do not have a statewide case management system is encouraging.

It is my hope that the next wave of states in the early eFiling planning stages use the lessons learned by their Supreme Court / Administrative Office of the Courts colleagues and bypass permissivie eFiling to move straight to mandatory eFiling, which will benefit all stakeholders involved.

Which approach has your court considered?

 

Black Belt: Learning to Learn

113_black-beltThe term “Martial Arts” may seem strange to those who have never pursued them. To those who have, however, the term makes perfect sense. Karate, judo, tai-chi, kung-fu, and myriad others, are indeed arts, requiring years of dedicated study and practice to master.

That’s not to say that there is no benefit at the front end. Beginners can pick up the rudiments of self-defense in a relatively short order. Indeed, a lot of folks look no further, in the same way that tourists can pick up enough of a foreign language to get by on a vacation, although they cannot be said to “speak the language”. And, there are a lot of benefits that accrue at the outset: improved fitness, enhanced self-awareness, increased self-confidence, and so on.

Most of those reasons are why people take up a martial art in the first place. When they start, even achieving Green Belt status seems almost impossibly remote. Mastery requires internalizing a complex and non-intuitive set of reflexes that permeate every action and every thought. And there’s just no way to do that without investing a lot of time and effort. Thus, to novices (White Belts), the Green Belts appear to be outstanding, the Brown Belts appear to be perfect practitioners; and the Black Belts are practically gods.

So, here’s a bit of a surprise: A First Degree Black Belt, achieved after years of effort, does not mean that the person has learned all are there is to know. Yes, he or she has become highly proficient, both in the Martial Art and in life in most aspects of life in general. But achievement of First Degree Black Belt status means, within the Martial Arts community, that the recipient is finally qualified and ready to begin learning.

In that regard, the recent announcement that Macomb County, Michigan Circuit Court now processes more documents through its E-Filing System than are received in paper format caused me to reflect that Macomb County and others who have been diligently working on ECM for years are approaching new thresholds. Yes, the ECM systems long ago began providing significant savings, efficiencies, and improved customer service, much as a White Belt realizes great benefits from the first several years of training. But as the courts leave the old paradigm behind – shedding its old skin, as it were – after significant time, effort, and learning, they are positioned to begin leveraging ECM by fully shifting to information management paradigms unencumbered by the limitations of the old world. Things like automatic redaction, fully automated document lifecycle control, rich and detailed metrics of all kinds, real-time data aggregation, and much, much more will be just the beginning.

In fact, no one knows the nature and extent of the capabilities that will be emerging, because unlike martial arts, there are not generations of high-level Black Belts who have been here before. The currently emerging ECM-cognizant courts are the first generation.

The next several years will be interesting and fraught with possibility. Organization, including courts, have to “learn to learn”, just as people do. Many of those who embarked on the ECM journey years ago are, after years of effort and experience, becoming comfortable with Change Management at levels never before possible or even contemplated. For adults set in their ways (and courts, as we know, have been very set in their ways), learning a second language is usually pretty challenging. But learning a new language makes learning yet another language much, much easier. Likewise, fully internalizing a new technology paradigm such as ECM makes identification of and transition to even better operations significantly smoother and less traumatic.

Macomb County Circuit Court and its peers have come a long ways. More exciting, they are in much better position to move forward with each passing step. Tipping to a majority of e-filed documents is a big one. Moving up to the darker-colored belt. Congratulations; I look forward to watching as the journey continues.