VirtualCourthouse Issue 1.2 – Promise of a VIRTUALcourthouse

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VirtualCourthouse Issue 1.2
Promise of a VIRTUALcourthouse – Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt – April 1996

It has often been said that “People who stop investing in the future cease to have one.” The promise of the VIRTUAlcourthouse is not only what the electronic file can do for the Clerk’s Office and the courtroom although that in itself is enormous. The promise of the VIRTUALcourthouse is also how it empowers the lawyer to develop the virtual law office. The virtual law office does not come without an investment of time and money. It also does not come without the acceptance of a reasonable amount of risk. The history of the recent virtual office in other applications is a high reward for those who are out in front. As the saying goes you “lead, follow, or get out of the way.”The debate has begun — What is the value of JusticeLINK, the electronic filing public\private partnership with the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County and Andersen Consulting-Lotus Notes and Compaq? Many who initially look a the cost of JusticeLINK [$175,$15\filing and $.50\min] will say that the cost is too high. But wait, let’s look at the total picture. Most lawyers give up 40-60% of their fee income to overhead. So every $1 overhead that can be saved is a $1 to income. In a VIRTUAL law office space costs go down, transportation cost go down, lookup and find costs go down, repetition costs go down.

 

DETAILED COST ANALYSIS

These concepts are not dreams and fantasies. They are actually happening. Tim Merging, Esq., a lawyer with offices in Baltimore, Hagerstown and Richmond has a LotusNotes based virtual law office. He reported at the Maryland State Bar Mid-Winter Meeting that his cost savings are substantial. He is so convinced that the concepts are sound that he has formed a LotusNotes application development firm called Enterprise Computing, Inc. They have developed a notes application called AXISlaw. For information call Colleen M. Buddemeyer at 1-800-368-1095.

The real advantage of getting started now is that the development is just beginning. The practical effect of this is that there will not be a high time and cost investment on the front end. The amount of time and money acquired will increase incrementally over time. The incremental increase will allow the wise lawyer to re-engineer his business process slowly over time. The wise lawyer will find himself with a healthy cost reduction and increased productivity a year or two into the development of the virtual law office. On the other hand the foot dragging lawyer whose knee jerk analysis says it cost too much will face a steeper financial investment, Sadly, the foot dragging lawyer will also be at a competitive disadvantage and face the difficult task of maintaining a client base enticed by the more efficient.

THE VALUE TO LAWYERS

A recent study by a JusticeLINK team of lawyers, change managers, marketing representatives and a judge concluded that an average litigation lawyer would save about $7,000 per year. This analysis approached the savings by evaluating four areas that would be instantly affected by the use of Justice LINK.

Before scrutinizing each area some assumptions were made. It was assumed that the average litigation lawyer handled a caseload of 100 cases per year. It was also assumed that there were 10 filings made in each case a year for a total of 1,000 filings per year. $71.11 per hour per lawyer. $17.78 per hour per assistant. 5% of filings are done by courier or hand delivered. 95% are filed by mail.

The five areas affected are: (i) Preparing filings; (ii) Retyping interrogatories; (iii) Review case status and file; (iv) Send certificates of service; and (v) Filing documents.

HOW TO GET STARTED

How does the technologically challenged lawyer get over the fear of the computer. There are no doubt many ways to get started. Most of us think in terms of our education and immediately conclude “Well, I need to sign up for a class.” This approach is very successful but is time consuming and therefore often gets put into the “I’ll do later pile” Another method is to get your hands on a computer and do the self learn routine. Believe it or not you do not need any technical knowledge to make the thing work — it is easier in many respects than the VCR that your son or daughter had to operate. This self teach method can be supplemented with a wide variety of resources such as books, audios, videos, magazines, your neighbor or workmate. The important thing is to get started so that the learning curve can begin.

I got started just that way. I bought a computer, took it home, set it up, and started to install software. First a wordprocessor, then a checkbook and finally an online service. The key is to find something that you want to do several times a week for an hour or so. What worked for me was the checkbook and the online service. It was also helpful to start reading computer columns in the newspaper and subscribe to a magazine. I choose Home Office Computing because it wasn’t very technical and provided a lot of useful information. By doing these two things I began to learn some of the vocabulary and to see a picture with the details fitting into the larger picture. In a matter of 6 months I was surprising myself at my ability to actually get something done.

THE REVOLUTION IS COMING SO MOUNT UP NOW FOR THE CHARGE!!!!

JusticeLINK CONTACT:

Mr. Robert I. Macfarlane

Andersen Consulting

202-862-8710

CivicLink CONTACT:

Claudia Stevens Maddox

Ameritech Information Access

1-800-307-1100

VirtualCourthouse Issue 1.1 Cyberspace and Lawyers

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VirtualCourthouse  Issue 1.1
Cyberspace and Lawyers  –  Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt – March 1996 

Cyberspace, virtual community, infocosm, information superhighway, Internet, WAN, LAN, modem, memory, windows — What does it all mean to the lawyer. Alvin & Heidi Toffler in their book Creating a New Civilization put it this way:

Humanity faces a quantum leap forward. It faces the deepest social upheaval and creative restructuring of all time. Without clearly recognizing it, we are engaged in building a remarkable new civilization from the ground up. This is the meaning of the Third Wave….

According to the Tofflers, the Third Wave is bringing our world including the legal profession into a new way of life.

The Third Waves brings with it a genuinely new way of life based on diversified, renewable energy sources; on methods of production that make most factory assembly lines obsolete. . . . The emergent civilization writes a new code of behavior for us and carries us beyond standardization, synchronization and centralization, beyond the concentration of energy, money and power.

And so, the infocosm is evolving. INFOCOSM, a word coined by Andersen Consulting, is defined as “a virtual world unconstrained by time, place or form; a world where computing, communicating and content converge. The infocosm is not going to be here in the future, it is here today. It is not waiting for the laying of fiberoptic cable. It is enabling a citizen-centered environment for all work — public and private. It is enabling the public and private to converge. Recent studies have shown that up to 70% of the Court’s and lawyers’ business can be virtualized.

Can the Courts and legal community be virtualized? It not only can but it is happening today. The Circuit Court for Prince George’s County accepted its first electronic filing in a motor tort case on November 16, 1995 at 3:43 p.m. George Meng, Esquire was the filing lawyer. The filing was done through JUSTICELINK, a public/private partnership between the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland and Andersen Consulting, LLP.

JUSTICELINK is an innovative electronic information access and filing service, revolutionizing communications and information management among attorneys and courts in Maryland and Washington, D.C. With JUSTICELINK, attorneys can obtain court information, access court legal records, conduct legal research, interact with the court and the clerk’s office, file documents, communicate electronically with other subscribers, 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week.

JUSTICELINK offers the easy-to-use benefits of LotusNotes to build an electronic bridge between subscribers and the courts. LotusNotes is the world’s leading provider of electronic communications, combines a powerful document management database and a sophisticated messaging system created on a foundation of security and reliability. With JUSTICELINK, subscribers can easily transfer documents to the courts or other subscribers, saving considerable amounts of time and money. JUSTICELINK also supports scanning exhibits for electronic submission to the court.

But JUSTICELINK is not the only electronic access to the Courts. CivicLINK, a public/private partnership between the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County and Ameritech, makes docket information, case scheduling information and tax assessor information available 24 hours a day. For information about either service contact:

JUSTICELINK:

* Electronic filing of pleadings 24 hours per day

* Electronic collecting of filing fees through ATM access

* Electronic service of pleadings on opposing counsel

* Creation of an electronic file to be used instead of paper file

* Templates for frequently used Court Documents

* Imaging of Court documents

* Instant access to electronic Court files

* Easily managed databases of useful information

* Faster dissemination of information among Court personnel such as Courtroom Clerks, Clerk’s Office and Assignment Office

* Court Calendars

COST:

$175 initial fee; $15 per filing; $.50 per minute

CONTACT:

Mr. Robert I. Macfarlane

202-862-8710

CivicLink:

* Tax and assessment records

* Daily Court calendering

* Future scheduled Court dates

* Courtroom Schedule

* Assigned Judge

* Information regarding civil jury verdicts (future)

* Docket Information

COST:

$5 or less per transaction; $100 user account

CONTACT:

Claudia Stevens Maddox

Ameritech Information Access

1-800-307-1100

Can the Courts and legal community be virtualized? It not only can but it is happening today. The Circuit Court for Prince George’s County accepted its first electronic filing in a motor tort case on November 16, 1995 at 3:43 p.m. George Meng, Esquire was the filing lawyer. The filing was done through JUSTICELINK, a public/private partnership between the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland and Andersen Consulting, LLP.

Cyberspace, virtual community, infocosm, information superhighway, Internet, WAN, LAN, modem, memory, windows — What does it all mean to the lawyer.

VirtualCourthouse Articles Introduction

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In 1996 Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt as the Chairman of the Courts Technology began to publish VirtualCourthouse in the Prince George’s County, Maryland Bar Association monthly newsletter in order to motivate the court and the bar to adopt technology and the Internet to better enable the court to meet the needs of litigants in a more efficient manner. In 1999 at the end of his term, Judge Ahalt retired and participated in the formation of JusticeLink an internet electronic court filing startup. In 2001 he founded VirtualCourthouse.com. Judge Ahalt continued to publish articles for various organizations. Those articles are collected here and continue to be added to by Judge Ahalt and selected contributors.