One of the biggest limitations of physical documents and files is that they are, well, physical.   They exist in a particular place.  They are subject to Newton’s Laws – mainly that they stay where they are put until they are moved  (except, of course, those that I am working on and just had on my desk and now can’t, for the life of me, find).  And moving them requires energy.   Also, if more than one person wants to use one of them at the same time, the two people have to get very close together.  Or one of them waits.  And they don’t put themselves away when you’re done with them.

Electronic Content Management (ECM) system makes files and documents

  • Instantly Accessible
  • From Anywhere
  • At Any Time
  • By Multiple People At the Same Time

And, as an added bonus, with workflow, it takes them to where they should be (in a virtual sense) when you are done with them.

Fast, Accurate, and Intuitive Navigation to the Needed File, Document, and Page

Judges need to be able to identify the documents and files they want, get them when they want them, and once they’ve got them, be able to find the information within them that they want. 

Now, everyone has systems and processes in place to do this with paper.  The bottom line is that with paper files and documents, the only way for the judge to see them is either go to where they all are and look through them; have some subset (like all of Joe Blow’s DUII files) fetched; or have someone else look at them and hopefully find the right one. 

Of course, if the judge is on the bench or away, none of those things are choices anyway; so he or she proceeds as best as possible; usually without the needed file or documents.

In a paper-on-demand court, the correct file or document can be quickly located in a number ways. 

  • Files. One of the really powerful things about files in an ECM system is that, unlike physical files, they can be ordered and accessed in many different ways.  Major “index” types include
    • Individual name
    • Family group
    • Common incident/subject
    • Significant dates (Filing, Hearing, Disposition)
    • Related files – This is a very powerful one, because a file can, of course, be related in many different ways.  Joe Blow may have his own group of cases, but he may also be part of the Blow family.  And he may also be part of the “Occupy Blowville” movement.  And so on.  With ECM, these relationships can be either dynamically created, or created through workflow business rules or, as is most common, a combination of workflow and staff review and verification.


  • Documents.  Once you have located the files that contain what you want, how do you get to the particular information you want?  Again, in the paper world, we all have developed ways to find information in files.  And worst case, you thumb through the documents one by one.

With ECM, there are a number of additional tools available to make it much easier and faster to locate documents and the information within them.  Those most used by judges include:

–     Intuitive and custom tabbing – Again, with paper documents, it’s hard to arrange them in more than one way.  You can have them chronologically or by document type; but it’s difficult to do both.  ECM solves that problem.  You can have tabs by date, by document type – for example, a Motions tab, a Judgments tab, a Financial tab, and so on.  And, judges can define their own tabs, depending on how they prefer to have things arranged.

–     Word search – The ability to locate not just documents, but information within documents – either within a file or across all files – is a game-changer.  To the extent Google has changed research forever, Word Search has forever changed how judges will access information in court documents and files. 

–     Work flow  Think “Staging”.  When files are brought to the judge, staff often “set them up” by marking or bringing to the front the documents the judge will need to review and deal with.   Automated workflow can provide total staging support.  And it does not require lead time.   Late-breaking matters can be staged instantly for judicial action.

In the next post we’ll look at document Readability, Manipulation, and Signature requirements and how a Paper-On-Demand court can provide them for judges.


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