“Don’t follow trends. Start trends.” Renowned film director, writer, and producer Frank Capra coined this well-known quote decades ago. He firmly believed that hopping on a bandwagon simply for the sake of it is an unwise decision. After all, why stick to the status quo when you can create your own lane and lead the way to new and exciting ideas? That being said, trends are a huge part of society. Fashion trends come and go, different topics trend daily on Twitter, and we track financial trends to understand how businesses are performing.

The beginning of every year is a wonderful opportunity for new trends to emerge. People are looking for the next big thing, and are hoping to improve themselves in the new year. While not the first industry to come to mind when discussing trends, the Justice System goes through phases just as others do. For those in the field, navigating new trends can seem intimidating. Luckily, the Justice System tends to gravitate towards trends that permanently improve processes and procedures. Let’s take a look at the trends experts are predicting in 2022.

Hybrid and Remote Models are Here to Stay

At this point, we’re all a bit tired of hearing about the “new normal.” Let’s face it; at two years in, this is just “normal.” While the pandemic caused many problems across all professional fields, it  expedited the process of digital transformation in the Justice System. In order to keep the court system relatively on track, remote models were adopted throughout the country. Hearings took place via video conference, hard-copy documents went paperless, and court personnel could work from home. According to experts, virtual court doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. Many professionals in the Justice System acknowledge virtual options are often faster, more affordable, and less stressful. However, it can be hard to use digital resources during criminal trials, as the jury is not as focused and cannot take in the nonverbal cues from those speaking at any given point in time. For that reason, many courthouses are opting for a hybrid model that utilizes the best aspects of both virtual and in-person sessions. Online hearings are more convenient, especially for those with busy work schedules who can’t afford to miss shifts several days in a row. Many simple cases can still be handled virtually, while the higher-profile and more complex trials head into the courtroom. There are pros and cons to both methods, but virtual court looks like it’s here to stay in some capacity.

Courts Are Looking to Become More People-Centric

Over the past few years, there’s been a push for the Justice System to be more people-centric. Previously, it was all about processes, even if they were obstacles to other involved parties. As of late, the Justice System has acknowledged some of its shortcomings, working to become more inclusive and understanding. Accessibility is a key focus now, with the system taking steps towards making trials more affordable and equitable. Courts are finding innovative ways to make sure that all Americans receive fair legal treatment. There are many alternative solutions to traditional processes that make proceedings faster and more affordable. In addition, the Justice System is improving its transparency to the public, giving people access to the true facts of a case and any public records associated with it. There are far less hoops to jump through throughout the process, making a court date less of a costly hassle for those involved.

Digital Evidence is at an All-Time High

In 2022, the number of cases that utilize digital evidence is expected to rise, just as it has over the last few years. Technology is more prevalent in our daily lives, so it makes sense to use it as part of a case. For example, social media accounts, comments, and posts can all be used in court if they shed light on a case. Cellphone records help verify locations and alibis. Computer sweeps can find any nefarious search history or disturbing documents. These file types will continue to be commonplace within the courtroom. However, as digital evidence is used more widely, it’s apparent that it’s far more convenient and accessible than traditional methods. As such, Digital Evidence Management (DEM) is on the rise. Not only do DEM systems like ImageSoft’s Vault allow you to manage the previously mentioned files, but it also accommodates scanned documents, photos, videos, audio records, CCTV footage, zip files, and more. Lawyers are swapping their cluttered evidence closet for a centralized, online database. DEM systems make uploading, normalizing, storing, sharing, and reviewing exhibits simpler than ever. All authorized parties have 24/7 access to evidence, so they can work on the case where and when it’s convenient. When you use a system like Vault, you can avoid bringing in CDs, DVDs, Flash Drives, and boxes of documents. All you need is a computer, and you can showcase any exhibit with ease.

AI is Being Introduced to More Areas of Justice

Artificial Intelligence is revolutionary and has made its mark in just about all career paths. It’s already going strong in the Justice System, but it’s predicted to get even bigger in 2022. AI is a huge time saver that can “make decisions” in place of human staff members. AI can run automation that helps you find documents. It can automatically reply to messages. It can file incoming documents appropriately. The courts benefit from Artificial Intelligence in multiple ways including in the back office and on the courtroom floor. This year, you can expect to see it in action more than ever. AI performs tasks that typically take up employee time. The machine can complete these duties more efficiently, freeing up staff members to focus on more pressing work matters. AI also removes human error, making it a popular choice for anything centered around mathematics or numerical values. One instance of AI that we are most excited to see growing is AI Mediation. Resolve Disputes Online is well-known for its AI Mediation tool which can take a settlement case from start to finish without the need for lawyers, judges, or in-office visits. The AI Mediator can look at the facts of a case and offer settlement costs deemed fair based on the evidence. Negotiations can occur in the platform until the parties are satisfied with the outcome. As you might imagine, AI Mediation is far faster and more cost-effective than the traditional process. Not only does this allow courts to handle more cases, but it also opens the door to fair mediation for those who typically cannot afford high lawyer and mediation fees.

Court Records are Moving Out of Filing Cabinets

Last but certainly not least, we can expect to see more and more offices moving records off-site. For some, this means storing them in more secure areas, but for many, this entails digitalizing their records. When you store paper documents in a building, there are countless things that could go wrong; floods, fire, inconsistent climate, getting moved around. If you digitalize your court records, they exist forever in the cloud or your database. They will not be destroyed even if the court were to collapse. You can access them from a different device and not lose a single piece of paper. Contrary to popular belief, storing court records in the cloud or on a server is no less secure than keeping them locked away in filing cabinets. People are starting to recognize that many digital storage options are actually more secure due to encryption, firewalls, and other cybersecurity measures. It’s nice to have old binders to look at, but it’s more efficient and reliable to have all records at the tips of your fingers.  An area we see the cloud utilized best is eFiling, a paperless alternative to filing documents for legal proceedings. Courts across the nation are realizing that digital storage saves time, money, and space and are working to implement eFiling systems into their daily routines. We can’t wait to see how successful these systems prove to be!

Of course, with any trend, it’s impossible to know what the true outcome will be. These predictions are based on the data from the last few years, as well as general trends about technology and innovation. 2022 is officially underway, and it will be interesting to see if the Justice System follows these trends or strays away. Regardless of what happens, we hope you’ll keep in mind that all of the mentioned solutions and products are proven beneficial by case studies and years of data. Don’t be afraid to start the trend and implement processes you feel are most useful for your office. Change can be intimidating, but it’s worth it to get a more fair, equitable, efficient, and affordable Justice System.

Learn more about how ImageSoft helps courts and reach out to our experts about other trending solutions at https://imagesoftinc.com/courts/.

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