I conclude my overview of what judges should require from an Electronic Content Management (ECM) interface by considering the functionality judges need to effectively, efficiently, and appropriately sign documents in a timely manner.
For reasons covered at length elsewhere , requiring judges to manually affix wet signatures to documents that are otherwise electronically stored and managed results in greatly increased cost, effort, overhead and opportunity for error. Moreover, from a judicial convenience standpoint, the ability to sign documents when they are ready, from anywhere (without waiting for them to be fetched) and having them immediately forwarded to whoever conducts the next step(s) in their processing saves immense amounts of judicial time and effort.
Briefly, some of the key reasons E-Signature benefits judges include
• Paving the Last Mile – Printing out a hard copy, getting a wet signature, then re-scanning the signed document greatly reduces the efficiency, and therefore the financial benefits, from the new system. Moreover, from a judge’s perspective, it also opens up a large and unnecessary area where mistakes, errors and security breaches can occur, all of which add up to judge’s time and effort.
This is analogous to having a one-mile stretch of unpaved road in the middle of a superhighway. Everything slows to a crawl and the potential for problems escalates. For this reason the adoption of the use of electronic signatures often constitutes “Paving the last mile on the road to a paper-on-demand court”.
• Simple and Easy to Use – The system has to be simple and easy to learn and use. The judge should be able to easily review the document, then go right to where the signature is required and apply it.
• Markup and Revision Control – E-signature with Markup Control allows judges to make changes to a document submitted for signature and then sign the revised document, secure in the knowledge that the system will track the revision, including when, where and by whom the change was made.
• Anywhere, Any Time – With paper documents, either the document has to get to the judge, or the judge has to get to the document. With ECM, the document can be available to the judge anywhere, any time.
• External Notifications – Once the judge is done with the document, the workflow component of the ECM system will route the document (with changes, signature, etc. as applicable) to wherever and whomever it needs to go. So, if the judge reviews a proposed order, makes changes, and wants to distribute it to the parties for review and approval, the system will handle it. If it should be diaried to be reviewed at some future date, the system will do that.
In summary, judges should not have to assume that moving to Electronic Content Management will require them to give up the document and file functionality so important to the effective performance of their judicial duties. They should, however, be pro-active in insisting that their requirements be clearly stated and understood. Those requirements typically include
• Instant accessibility
• Fast, Accurate, and Intuitive Navigation to the Needed File, Document, and Page
• Easy to Read
• Easy to Physically Manipulate
• Easy, Secure, Flexible Signature Capability
Judges should insist that the ECM system as implemented satisfies those requirements, not just to the standard of paper, but to a standard that is better than paper.