Three Steps to Modernize Your Justice System

April 22, 2022 by Meredith Trimble

Three Steps to Modernize Your Justice System

Courts around the country have been steadily evolving towards digital maturity, first by adopting electronic filing and realizing savings in time and money through increased efficiencies. Moving to digital documents, online self-service for the public, and inter-jurisdictional information sharing are steps that promise even more in benefits to municipal courts and justice partners, while also increasing access to justice for all community members.

Luckily, there is a game plan for modernization. Successful courts are those that develop a multi-year strategy that focuses on planning, technology, and people in the following ways.

1.  Use Cross-agency Teams to Create a Plan

Reaching digital maturity doesn’t happen overnight. It happens thoughtfully over time and requires a strategic vision that incorporates the needs and interests of multiple departments and jurisdictions. Capturing and acting on these varying needs is best accomplished by forming the right leadership teams. Begin with a senior-level steering committee of executives charged with developing a long-term vision and overseeing its implementation. Then form cross-agency project committees to represent the interests of all relevant departments and foster lasting collaboration. These project teams can specialize in specific aspects of the plan or own the logistics of necessary operational shifts.

2.  Capitalize on Modern Technology

Integration is the foundation for automating processes and reaching digital maturity. The long-term investment in new technology requires that any solution not only meets the back-office needs of its home department, but also fits into the larger picture of cross-department information sharing. Any system under consideration should be a best-of-breed system on its own, while also offering flexibility and scalability for integration and information flow across departments and agencies.

In choosing a technology vendor, look for partners who have navigated the rough waters of the last two, three, or four waves of technology and have kept up with innovation. Do not be enticed by quick-fix apps or risk your future on temporary technologies.

3.  Manage Change

The steps towards modernization are both technical and adaptive. There are many stakeholders who will benefit greatly from a digital court, but technology is meaningless without humans to optimize its use for improved outcomes. Leaders must drive decisions in procurement and culture that lead to an organization in which all employees are comfortable using and communicating around data. Once empowered, their day-to-day lives will quickly become easier. Until that moment of proof, however, communication and education around a data-driven environment are critical. Devote resources to prepare internal and external users for change, and level up employees through training and support to work with data. Pilot a small program for early wins to enhance buy-in. Pilots also provide an important opportunity to troubleshoot before larger initiatives begin. Involve stakeholders by collecting – and acting on – their feedback along the way.

Taking these steps to modernize justice systems will empower citizens, legal professionals, and justice agencies in meaningful ways. Courts become more accessible and convenient, legal professionals benefit from anytime access to electronic records, and integrated justice gives departments across geographic boundaries streamlined workflows and a central source of real-time information.

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