Friday, June 24, 2011

Eight Rules of E-Filing (Introduction)

As in any technology project, the “devil” is in implementation and acceptance of the new system by the judges and court staff.  E-filing affects every part of the court operation since it transforms the filing system and the documents used to make court decisions.

Case Management Systems (CMS) have traditionally automated the registry/docket (historical event record), participants, and scheduling /task control and has left the document filing system for separate image document management programs.  This has primarily been done because of cost and the lack of workflow and task control capabilities in traditional CMS.

But I believe that this is also a remnant of the courts traditional organizational division between the docket/registry/indexing function and the document filing system.  Separate staff and separate processes are a common organizational structure in many clerk's offices.

Even today a great majority of courts still maintain physical case files.  And workflow in manual file systems has meant physically moving the file folder from person to person and office to office.  In many courts the file folder also serves as the case event registry.  This function is addressed by a printed registry form grid on the folder cover the list of documents contained within.  The advantage for this approach is that when one works on the contents of the folder, the data capture and presentation is literally in one’s hands.

Bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell explains in his article “The Social Life of Paper” the attractiveness of this approach in a collaborative work environment like the court:

“Because paper is a physical embodiment of information, actions performed in relation to paper are, to a large extent, made visible to one's colleagues. Reviewers sitting around a desk could tell whether a colleague was turning toward or away from a report; whether she was flicking through it or setting it aside. Contrast this with watching someone across a desk looking at a document on a laptop. What are they looking at? Where in the document are they? Are they really reading their e-mail? Knowing these things is important because they help a group coordinate its discussions and reach a shared understanding of what is being discussed.” 

But the same capability can be done with even more ease in an E-filing/Electronic Document Management system as will be discussed in later posts in this series.

E-filing, document, and case management functionality cannot be separated.  Many courts have tried what is now termed an “e-delivery” systems.  This is where the documents are electronically submitted only to transfer the work of printing, collating, and storing the paper into the physical file folder to the court staff.  One can imagine the additional workload for court staff that negates the initial efficiencies of E-filing.  These projects have been shuttered after a period of time because E-filing did not reduce but rather increased the clerk's staff workload.

Over the next several weeks we will offer eight rules of E-filing systems implementation.  However, please note that there are many additional factors in any successful implementation as defined in classic project management structures including proper governance, budget, testing, and communication that cannot be ignored.  So please keep that in mind as you read our "rules".


  1. Hi, probably our entry may be off topic but anyways, I have been surfing around your blog and it looks

    very professional. It’s obvious you know your topic and you appear fervent about it. I’m developing a

    fresh blog plus I’m struggling to make it look good, as well as offer the best quality content. I have

    learned much at your web site and also I anticipate alot more articles and will be coming back soon.

    Thanks you.

    Document Management Systems

  2. Thank you for your comment. Please feel free to write to me at the NCSC and I will be happy to share some of the approach here. My staff directory listing with my e-mail address link can be found at: