July 22-25, 2018 – A packed audience gathered at the National Association for Court Management (NACM) 2018 Annual Conference, as the New Hampshire Judicial Branch (NHJB) presented their highly-anticipated session “Mandated SRL e-Filing: How to Make it Work”. The NHJB is the first and currently ONLY statewide court system that has successfully accommodated all filer types (both attorneys and self-represented) to exclusively efile.
This pioneering approach, powered by TurboCourt Intelligent iFiling, has won New Hampshire widespread recognition including NACM’s Top Ten Technology Solution Award in 2016, just 18 months after launching their eCourt project.
Conference attendees were eager to learn how the NHJB achieved SRL efiling success. Many courts still adhere to the misconception that there are no technological solutions for self-represented litigants (SRLs) to successfully prepare court filing forms and e-file on their own. As a result, these courts operate with a hybrid system which is part-paper, part-electronic. This causes inefficiencies in case processing and actually creates more work for court staff and judges who must operate in dual environments.
However, at the Atlanta, Georgia NACM Conference, NHJB shattered this misconception by sharing how they successfully planned, executed and continue to optimize their mandatory SRL efiling initiative.
Strategic Planning Pays Off
People often wonder: ‘How did the NHJB achieve such an ambitious transformation from paper to fully-electronic SRL filing?’ For NACM 2018 attendees, NHJB’s eCourt Project Manager Jackie Waters methodically outlined their strategic plan and program roll-out.
She noted that the keys to success started by accepting that:
- Part electronic / Part paper systems are inherently inefficient.
- Mandating electronic filing without accommodating SRL’s will create more deficient/ rejected filings.
- If given a choice, SRLs will always chose paper filing, causing wasted time for both filers and court staff.
- Successful SRL efiling requires a comprehensive infrastructure of SRL self-help, process re-engineering and specialized, intelligent filing technology.
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‘Very Impressive’ Results
The NHJB eCourt Project began in 2014. Now, with over 3 years of data, the results are very impressive. A key performance measure for courts is the length of time from filing-to-disposition. This is often interpreted as a measure of two factors: 1) How efficient a court’s internal operations are, and 2) How effectively a court resolves a citizen’s dispute, as expeditiously as possible.
After transitioning to TurboCourt, the NHJB reduced time-to-disposition by the following:
- Small claims time reduced by 22%
- Wills and Estates time reduced by 8%
- Guardianship time reduced by up to 72%
Business Rules & Intelligence: A Critical Success Factor
Many eCourt systems fail to produce the expected results, because they aren’t intelligent enough to guide an inexperienced filer who is representing him/herself. Often filers are overwhelmed by legal terms, a multitude of complex court forms, and confusing filing requirements. Invariably, filers end up frustrated and turn to court staff for assistance. In turn, this often overextends court resources and slows down case processing.
TurboCourt Intelligent iFiling utilizes advanced technology that interfaces with court’s CMS to guide filers through a simple-yet-comprehensive, plain language online interactive process. Instead of SRLs trying to figure out their role in court proceedings, selecting forms, calculating proper filing fees and filling forms out, TurboCourt does it all for them. The result of intelligent filing is 100% compliant, error-free filings, the first time and every time. Gone are the days when Court staff would spend time reviewing, rejecting, correcting and contacting SRLs to revise or resubmit their filings.
Instead, thanks to TurboCourt’s configurable business rules and compliance functionality, courts can efficiently move SRL cases through the disposition process faster, and with improved filer satisfaction. NHJB also reported gaining significant internal operating efficiencies, such as redeploying staff from intake to case processing and centralizing services.
Catering To All Filer Types
Because court forms and procedures are complex, many courts have long-doubted whether SRLs have the technical acumen to navigate online tools. A mandatory efiling system can only be successful when all filers, not just attorneys, can prepare and timely file correct court documents online quickly, easily and confidently.
Although New Hampshire mandates efiling, they recognize that in rare cases a filer needs an exemption and can be permitted to file traditionally in paper form. However, because of TurboCourt’s self-help features and step-by-step guidance, over 99% of SRLs use TurboCourt, meaning less than 1% request an exemption from efiling. Moreover, most of the SRLs who were granted an exemption are incarcerated and prohibited from computer access anyways.
In other words, NHJB has proven that over 99% of SRL can successfully efile using TurboCourt. Plus, statistically over 90% of TurboCourt users can successfully complete a submission their first time… NO court staff assistance necessary!
Advice for Court Leaders
Your court team can win by joining NHJB and other courts across the country in onboarding your SRLs to an electronic court.
To achieve success, here are some MUSTs to follow:
- Start with a vision for mandatory SRL e-filing (i.e. believe it can and must be done!).
- Scrutinize for barriers… then eliminate them before you move forward.
- Design everything with access to justice as the #1 objective. eFiling improves access and service.
- Use analytics as input to continuous improvement.
- Both quantitative and qualitative feedback matters.
When designing your eCourt project, these are critical success factors:
- Deploy a user-friendly, plain language guided interview format and auto-generated forms. Just because experienced attorneys can use an efiling system, does NOT mean the same system will work for SRLs. Different objectives and skills require different solutions
- Build upon an expansive TurboCourt online library for SRLs. SRLs want online services, 24×7
- (It’s so important we’re saying it again…) Intelligent guided and auto-generated forms are essential
- Mandatory efiling increases SRL satisfaction. Most SRLs prefer electronic access, but they need intelligent filing in order to be successful filers
How TurboCourt Intelligent Filing made all the difference
Electronic court projects are ambitious, require specialized skills and can consume a lot of precious court resources. One on the success factors in the NHJB eCourt project was the dynamic and innovative functionality TurboCourt provides.
TurboCourt’s ready-to-deploy forms assembly and efiling templates greatly increased the quality and timeliness of the court process. Unlike other vendors or project methodologies that rely on authoring tools (which require court staff resources to build, maintain and update solutions), TurboCourt’s turn-key approach led the NHJB eCourt initiative by developing guided interviews to accommodate all of the court’s multiple case types.
Ask the TurboCourt Team how your court can follow the NHJB SRL eCourt success.
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About The Authors
Scott Crampton joined Intresys in 2014 after a career in court administration at trial court, appellate and federal levels. As Director of Client Services for Intresys, Scott leads Business Development efforts including client support & account management. Email Scott
TurboCourt™ is the industry’s most innovative, intelligent and integrated guided electronic court ECF-compliant turn-key filing software, serving 19 states and counting, hundreds of agencies and millions of citizens across the U.S.
TurboCourt’s simple, user-friendly interface, proactive error-checking alerts and embedded quality controls enable courts to receive 100% accurate forms and filings the first time… every time.