VirtualCourthouse; Issue 4.3
Building an Electronic Case File – Selecting the Technology
Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt
This Article was first published in the Prince George’s County, Maryland Journal/Newsletter
Over the past several months the focus has been on understanding the steps to building an electronic case file. The steps to creating an ECF are:
1. Creating a foundation for change.
2. Understanding the workflow of a judge and/or a lawyer.
3. Defining the elements.
4. Selecting the technology.
This month the discussion will conclude with an examination of the technology necessary to build an electronic case file. Selecting the technology is a three-part process that requires: (i) hardware; (ii) software; (iii) change management, project management and training. A starting point for preparing a budget for an ECF is 33 percent for each part. It is extremely important that the third part change management, project management and training not be underfunded. The consequence of underfunding this part is to dramatically reduce the return on investment made to purchase hardware and software.
In order to obtain a better understanding of the technology, the advice of Vibby Prasad, Director of Product Development for JusticeLink, was sought. According to Mr. Prasad, there are five elements which need separate technology for an ECF: (i) data; (ii) documents; (iii) security; (iv) information access; and (v) information transaction.
These areas allow large groups of individuals to communicate over a local area network (LAN). The technology necessary to enable a LAN from a hardware aspect are (i) file server and (ii) clients or personal computers (PCs). The technology necessary to enable a LAN from a software aspect are (i) network software such as Novell and (ii) applications for word processing, e-mail, etc. to be used on PCs.
For each of the five areas: (i) data; (ii) documents; (iii) security; (iv) information access; and (v) information transaction, there is a hardware consideration and a software consideration.
Selecting Technology for an Electronic Case File
HARDWARE: File Server
SOFTWARE: Database; Case Management; Workflow
HARDWARE: File Server; Juke Box
SOFTWARE: Image Capture; Document Management; Workflow
HARDWARE: Computer Gateway
SOFTWARE: Firewall Software
HARDWARE: Internet Server
SOFTWARE: Web Server
HARDWARE: Work Station
SOFTWARE: Transaction Software
As can be seen, there are numerous “servers” necessary. Unfortunately, the word “server” can be used as a descriptive word for both software and hardware. However, usually the word “server” refers to a computer (hardware). There are six necessary computer functions accomplished by a server: (ii) database server; (ii) file server; (iii) fax server; (iv) application server; (v) web server; and (vi) firewall server. Usually several of these functions are performed on one computer. For an entire integrated system, often all six functions are on no more than two computers.
The same architecture applies to both law office and the court. Obviously the size of the systems will differ dramatically smaller for law offices and larger for courts. The elements remain the same for both — DATA DOCUMENTS SECURITY INFORMATION ACCESS INFORMATION TRANSACTION. For many solo lawyers a high capacity powerful workstation will be capable of performing all of the functions in conjunction with an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
A word on computer guidelines for judges: Judge Richard B. Klein from the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been at the forefront of advocating the use of computers by judges for over ten years. Judge Klein recently chaired a special technology committee of the ABA Judicial Division’s National Conference of State Trial Judges, which has recommended minimum requirements for hardware and software for Judges. The Committee’s full report is published at www.abanet.org/jd and will be periodically updated at that address and at www.ncsc.dni.us/ncsc/ct1 .
For standard solutions for the lawyer you should consult the attorney’s bible for electronic support entitled Litigation Support Systems: An Attorney’s Guide, 2nd Edition, written by James I. Keane which can be found at: www.cbclegal.com/catalog/lit./lss.html .
Cyber Secretaries. Here is a new service which might merit your investigation. Cyber Secretaries, the efficient new 24-hour computerized phone-dictation service. Cyber Secretaries provides you with an unlimited on-line staff of qualified, experienced word processors available for any size job, but with no ongoing commitment from you. All you need is a telephone and an e-mail address to use the service from anywhere in the world. Cyber Secretaries turns any phone into a dictation device. You simply dial a toll-free number and dictate as usual. The only difference is that the telephone keypad performs the forward, reverse, stop and playback functions. You can also fax handwritten or existing work to be transcribed. Your finished typed document is then e-mailed to your computer with a turnaround time equal to, or better than, an in-house staff. You can then review the draft document and edit it yourself or you can submit your changes via fax or further dictation. And all work transcribed by Cyber Secretaries is completely confidential and secure.
Contact: Richard Jackson at 1-800-828-5764 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.voice2doc.com .
by Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt – March 1999