The right ingredients make all the difference. From baking to sportscars, the quality of the elements that make up the whole can be a delight or a disaster. At the Court Technology Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Thomson Reuters will showcase three key ingredients to building a successful court case management system (CMS). Throughout the run of the conference, I will have a series of posts where I summarize these “ingredients” and expand upon the ideas that emerge from the show for those that are unable to attend.

Like much of government, courts are in a unique situation. Facilitating access to justice for your community can be an unforgiving job in which you have to evaluate processes that will increase the speed at which you process cases, offer modern tools to the public to interface with the court system while working effectively with various partners such as lawyers and law enforcement.

For many courts, aging CMS tools require a full evaluation before attempting to enhance workflow, become more efficient and improve interactions with constituents. A well-designed CMS enables:

  • Judges to spend more time working on cases and less time on paperwork,
  • Clerks to be more efficient and spend less time on repetitive tasks such as data entry,
  • Stronger data security employing the latest technology,
  • Partners to a court’s system (sheriffs departments, public defenders and attorneys) to have increased access to the information managed by courts in their system.

Sounds great, right?

But when it comes down to planning, designing and building that new system, often courts may fall back on old habits and resist true process change that will produce time-saving differences for court employees and constituents.

This is where the first of three ingredients comes in.

Budget has been secured and a court has a green-light to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for a new case management system. When writing the RFP, it can be daunting to consider all of the needs and variations available in a system. Additionally, you may not be aware of what is in market or available to you. Many times, whether due to time constraints or resources, courts grab an old RFP or pull outdated checklists and start there. It’s a quick fix to move the process along.

This is where you should stop and ask yourself if you are producing an innovation-seeking RFP or just perpetuating the same processes and thinking that has limited your court for the past several years?

The challenge is to write a RFP that will draw out the most innovative responses and provide the court with a system that will not be outgrown or become stale. So how do you do this?

The white paper, Is Your Court Case Management RFP Perpetuating Outdated Technology?, discusses ideas that courts can and should incorporate throughout their RFP process.

As a start, here are a few questions to ask vendors when they submit proposals:

  • What is your roadmap to design the courtroom of the future?
  • Do you support ways for us to charge court recovery fees?
  • Aside from typical CMS features, what innovations do you bring to the legal industry?
  • How can you help us make transformational change?
  • How can your technology help us serve the public in the future?
  • How do related legal technologies integrate with your product?

Make the vendor show you how they view their software and how it will work for your court now and well into the future. Instead of issuing a checklist of features that a vendor must provide, issue a list of needs the court has and allow the vendor to propose ways to solve those needs.

In the next post I take a closer look at the second ingredient – Configuration versus Customization.

For more on Thomson Reuters presence at CTC 2017, click here. And for more on C-Track Court Management, click here.

This post was written by Dori Buckethal, marketing manager with the Thomson Reuters Government team.

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