In an age accelerating technological transformation, some courts are decidedly stone age. But there’s an upside: the most technically backward courts are well-positioned to leapfrog stages of justice’s slow technological evolution.
The Mobile Phone Leapfrog
Mobile phones helped developing countries leapfrog stages of technological evolution. While developed or industrialized countries invested in the expensive and complicated infrastructure to support fixed or land line phones, some developing countries skipped this stage altogether and went straight to mobile phones.
The Court Technology Leapfrog
Courts that still depend on a paper-heavy infrastructure aren’t invested in aging, 1st generation justice technologies. They aren’t stuck with legacy IT systems too old to warrant improvements but too expensive to replace. They can leapfrog this stage of evolution and get straight into truly transformative 2nd generation benefits.
Let’s consider some examples.
Case management systems: courts can leapfrog past old, scratch-built case management systems dependent on outdated and unreliable government servers into much more powerful, user friendly, efficient, cloud-based case management platforms with loads of support, regular updates, high security and minimal risk of downtime.
Electronic forms: courts can leapfrog initiatives aimed at creating difficult-to-fill-out digital copies of difficult-to-fill-out paper court forms.
They can move straight into responsively designed applications that put users’ needs first. Instead of incremental evolution, these courts will bring about a revolution by creating information collection methods that the public (and lawyers) actually understand.
E-filing: sure, the actual transmission of an e-filed document can be fast. But then what? In an otherwise unchanged court process, adding on an e-filing step is equivalent to getting in a Ferrari, screaming up to the back end of a gridlocked freeway, shutting off the engine and throwing the keys down a storm drain.
A court can leapfrog this evolutionary step and move (nearly) all of its business and infrastructure online. Only 1-2% of cases actually go to trial, so moving at least 98% of the court’s business into convenient, efficient, remote, asynchronous, tech-based service channels shouldn’t be too controversial, should it?
Of course, everything depends on the courts taking action to adopt technology. They need to skip cowpath-paving technologies and aim instead for innovation and transformation.
If the right decisions are made, it will result in some game-changing benefits in our justice systems. We just need our courts to take the leap.