Thursday, December 12, 2013

Clerk Of The Circuit Court's Message: Betting On The Future With eFiling

By Pat Frank
I am not one to advocate rolling the dice, but when it comes to the issue of eFiling, to me there’s no better bet for the clerk’s office and our constituencies than putting our time, energy, and resources toward its implementation.
On April 1, all circuit civil, county civil, and family law pleadings filed by attorneys were mandated to be eFiled.  To put this in perspective, circuit civil alone received 3,500 pieces of mail each day.  That number has now dropped to 300 pieces of mail.
The dramatic decrease in paper received has made it so much easier to handle mail, sort documents, and file.  It has also reduced the workload for our mail services and record center departments.
Previously, circuit civil transported 2,000 files to and from the clerk and the judiciary.  Since most of the recent pleadings are now electronic, only 1,000 files are transported each month, producing savings in both operations costs and in records management.  Eighty percent of the pleadings that are being reviewed in court are now electronic, thus only 20 percent of the files remain paper files. 
In addition to greatly reducing the amount of time and paper, the transformation to eFiling also increases our accuracy.  When you receive thousands of documents each day, there is a far better chance of misfiling.  Staff used to spend hours searching for and locating a misfiled document.  With electronic filing, that is no longer an issue. 
With mail functions, sorting, and filing almost nonexistent, circuit civil is working with four fewer employees.  County civil has reduced its staff by two, as has family law.  Since attorneys eFile, customer service has now shifted from over the counter to phone and email customer service, so we are seeing reductions on that front, too.  Circuit civil has reduced its front-counter employees from five to two, and family law now has four employees instead of seven.
The most positive result of all is that we are far more responsive to our customers.  Before eFiling, it took two to three days before pleadings were available in the clerk’s system.  Now, 95 percent of pleadings are accepted and can be viewed the same day that they are eFiled.  Also, customers receive confirmation emails each time a document that has been eFiled is accepted.
In family law, 50 percent of new cases are eFiled.  Therefore, cashiering has been reduced by 50 percent there.  In circuit civil, staff performed an average of 300 transactions daily.  With eFiling, that number is now 130.  This is efficiency in both operations and accounting.
In the past, space ― or lack of it ― has been an issue in the clerk’s office, but with eFiling in effect, the reduction in paper, files, and staff has made more space available. 
I don’t know if we’ve hit the jackpot yet with eFiling, but from all indications, it is a winner for all of us.