With an average of 3 billion people online, the Internet has become a conventional tool in people’s daily lives. While an ostensibly encouraging statistic, showing that the Internet is a trusted medium for the exchange of information, this notion is far from reality. Most people are making a conscious or unconscious trade between convenience and putting confidential information at risk. In addition, the complexity of the technology makes it difficult for providers to demonstrate that their solutions meet people’s natural expectations around information security.
Every day people read in the press about the large-scale data breaches that seem to occur with increasing frequency, further undermining trust. Even if security is improving it can easily seem as though it’s getting worse due to a heightening volume of transactions, blinding users to the improvements made in cybersecurity for individual transactions. This is similar to the dilemma airlines face. If the number of miles flown per passage escalates quicker than airlines can update safety measures they will lose public trust, it will seem as though there are more airline accidents. The same is true for trust in cybersecurity.
World’s Largest Data Breaches
The benefits associated with going online are undeniable; storing content online allows a user to create, collaborate, compare, email, and store documents in one, centralized location. Several industries are looking or have already found a secure avenue to digitize document-intensive processes. Collaborative technology is attractive, yet legal, corporate, financial, and accounting firms’ face a dilemma. The benefits of collaboration for them and their customers are obvious, but the damage inflicted by a data leak can be fatal to their reputations.
If extensive and well-engineered online security failed to insulate J.P. Morgan’s 76 million customers from hackers, legal professionals should be cautious when deciding whether to go wholly-digitized. Notwithstanding this, entire judiciaries have successfully been digitizing legal content since 1997.
Singapore: The Judicial Digitization Pioneer
Singapore was an early adopter of electronic court submissions, introducing the first nationwide electronic filing system (EFS) in 1997. According to Supreme Court Singapore, in 2000 a government mandate was issued requiring all lawyers to adopt an e-filing system. According to Peer-to-Peer’s Collaborative Technology and E-litigation in U.S. Courts, Singapore experienced benefits from e-filing instantly, lawyers had no paper-trail to chase and judges were downloading documents while in court. Seemingly, EFS was a success. It was fully operational, and expedited judicial backlogs while cutting costs and saving time; one explanation for it becoming a de-facto legal hub in Southeast Asia.
Despite the obvious success of the system there were complaints about the clumsy document reservation process and overall, people found the system too slow and unreliable. Rather than retire or enhance the existing system, Singapore extended their EFS and moved to a fully-integrated eLitigation system.
eLitigation: How would you rule?
eLitigation is an integrated system engineered to replace Singapore’s Electronic Filing System (EFS). Unlike EFS, eLitigation streamlines all components of judicial processes and assists firms and courts throughout the entire judicial process. eLitigation’s functionality is all-encompassing, from filing electronic court documents, to scheduling hearings, billing, collection, and maintaining financial records. With eLitigation, legal professionals and courts can collaborate in a secure, simple digital environment.
These online services now work together, streamlining document-intensive processes and maximizing efficiency in the legal industry. (‘About eLitigation’)
Electronic Filing Service
File and submit documents electronically to the Courts.
Case files and other relevant documents are more likely to be under Court rules and standards as pre-defined templates are used.
Case Information Repository
Allows individual Law Firm Users to have a virtual storage of all files and documents that relate to the cases they are handling.
Easily retrieve a needed document, update and store it for future reference.
Digitally serve Court documents to other Law Firms cost-effectively.
Negates time spent filing court documents through print means.
Notifications and Alerts
Receive notifications when there’s an update on a case
Calendaring and Hearing Dates
Digitally view and select hearing dates within the time frames allotted by courts.
Generate reports automatically based on set criteria administered by the user including case-level information on charges incurred
Court Replies and Notifications (Mailbox)
View and access a list of recent cases that users have created, filed and submitted.
Search for Created and Filed Cases
Finds cases they have created or filed.
Directly perform certain actions, such as filing a new case, document or request.
By taking bold steps, being open to change and ultimately reinventing the solution, Singapore has built trust in an online court system. Trust in the system ultimately drives adoption, it is a prerequisite for success.
Courts must think long and hard about transitioning to eLitigation. Approaching half a century since the ‘network-of-networks’ was created, the Internet has never offered such a high-degree of convenience and efficiency allowing business processes to be streamlined. If courts don’t move into the digital age they risk their procedural posture and decisions being drowned by a tsunami of online collaboration and social media. The “court of public sharing” could gain the upper hand, damaging the credibility of the courts and with it weakening the rule of law. All when a fair and impartial judiciary is one of the very safeguards protecting our civilized existence.
Technology’s ever-evolving nature makes establishing processes and procedures difficult and often expensive. This makes it easy for skeptics to hold back progress and for pioneers to get burned. For those of us who believe that the benefits outweigh the risks now is the time to make changes happen.
By: Josh Davis