Court Leaders Gather in Kazakhstan

October 09, 2019 by Colin Rule

Court Leaders Gather in Kazakhstan

Technology’s constant evolution has governments struggling to keep pace. This is true, too, in the courts. Artificial intelligence, smart contracts, predictive analytics, and machine learning pose challenges – but also opportunities – for courts and their justice partners.

Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan was the site of September’s regional conference of the International Association for Court Administration (IACA). There, thought leaders addressed how best to leverage emerging technology to enhance access to justice, improve the public trust, and achieve efficiency through innovation. I was fortunate to attend this event with my colleague Kyle Snowdon, vice president, Tyler Technologies. Not only were the sessions – attended by participants from more than 60 countries – valuable, the hallway conversations were fascinating.

The Central Hall of the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan

Evolution, Not Revolution

Kyle delivered the first day’s keynote address, Emerging Technologies: Opportunities and Threats for Courts. He walked through how the new technologies noted above are often implemented in courts piecemeal, without coordination. He discussed a better pathway to integration so that courts can truly leverage modern tools to improve justice in communities.

“Depending on where you’re starting,” said Kyle, “the adoption of technology and the transformation of your judicial system is a very long and most likely endless journey. Focus on establishing a multi-year plan with solid digital foundation. And remember, the effective use of technology to improve the administration of justice is an evolution, not a revolution.”

The digital foundation Kyle spoke to begins with the systems at the heart of an organization – the case management systems. Building from there, courts can implement layers such as document management and digital recording, electronic filing, guided interviews, and advanced access and analytics. While not always linear, “the key to leveraging these solutions over time is that they are built upon a platform of standard technologies,” he noted. “To avoid adding another ‘one off’ solution to your web of technology, you must first establish a solid organizational and technological foundation on which you can build.”

Promise and Potential

I was glad to dive deeper into this area at a following panel that included District Judge Sarah Tan from the State Courts of Singapore. Singapore has long been on the leading edge of technology in the courts, something I explored in an earlier post. One of the key takeaways from the panel was the importance of building support and understanding among judges and court staff before launching any new technology.

Maurits Barendrecht from the Hague Institute for Innovations and Law joined me later in the day to discuss our shared lessons in online dispute resolution (ODR). Maurits and I worked to build the first exclusively online family and divorce ODR process for the Dutch Legal Aid Board in 2015. Our experiences remain relevant to the field as ODR use cases continue to grow and expand court services to self-represented litigants and underserved populations. The promise and potential of integrating technology more deeply into the justice system were clearly exciting to the many young law students and legal entrepreneurs in attendance.

Left to right: Abdulla Al Majid, Richard Goodman, Mark Beer, Francesco Contini, Mimi Zou, Colin Rule, Azar Aliyev

Client Centric Courts

A true highlight was the International Justice Forum, held in conjunction with the IACA event. At the forum, I joined, among other esteemed speakers, Abdullah Al Majid, chief innovation officer to the UAE Ministry of Justice, on the panel, IT Technologies and the Administration of Justice. Abdulla started off the discussion by suggesting something intriguing: that we should evaluate court services in terms of how much happiness they deliver to the end users. We should compare courts against other service providers like airlines and hotels. I agreed and noted that courts face hurdles in innovating fast enough to keep up with the tech changes in society and the private sector.

Mark Beer, president of IACA, summarized the session’s key takeaway: “Courts have to deliver a service to the communities they serve,” he said. “Like any service, it needs to be client centric, and if clients want to access court services using technology, then courts should listen.”

Larger Lessons

So often, we focus like a laser on meeting the needs of our partners in the courts and their users across the United States. There are, however, many interesting lessons to be gleaned from interacting with our international peers and learning from their experiences across different geographies and different cultures.  What is very clear from my experience in Kazakhstan is that Tyler’s Courts & Justice technology ranks among the very best platforms in the world, and that the momentum behind technology’s entry into the justice system will not be slowing any time soon.

Learn more about how courts around the globe have been steadily evolving towards digital maturity here.


Colin Rule was recently awarded the Frank Sanders Award by the American Bar Association. This is the fifth post in a series on ODR by Rule, vice president, Online Dispute Resolution and co-founder of Modria. Check this space on the second Wednesday of each month for more.

Read his earlier articles here:

Frank Sander and the Multidoor Courthouse
How ODR Can Benefit Three Criminal Case Types
The Intriguing Evolution of ODR
ODR Around the World

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