The other day I experienced one of those “OK, the world has changed and here’s your notice of that fact” moments. I remember years ago receiving a notice from my bank that a new service would allow me to conduct some of my banking activities online. The bank was proud to offer this “extra benefit”. No doubt about it, that was a moment of big change – just having the service available. I think some banks actually charged a bit initially; and for those “early adopters” willing to take advantage, it was a good deal.
It wasn’t very long before the bank figured out that the more people took advantage of this “extra service”, the cheaper it was for them to provide customers with standard banking services.
The notice the other day declared that in order to continue to do ANY banking electronically (including things like direct deposit and bill-pay), customers must agree to allow the bank to do ALL transactions electronically. For those who do not wish to agree, or who still want some services “on paper”, the bank will, upon request, provide them. However, the bank specifically reserves the right to charge extra fees for such “paper-based” services.
The notice certainly wasn’t a complete surprise. For years now, the bank has been ever more aggressively “encouraging” customers to go paperless. The reason we have not done so is that my wife (a Legal Assistant in a law office that has waged a battle of both benign avoidance and hand to hand combat against the introduction of technology) has consistently said she prefers paper statements. In some of the other accounts, I print out the statements for her; but on this one, we are still getting the dead-tree versions through Snail Mail. (Hey; I’ve got to sleep somewhere. You pick your battles.)
When I told my wife about the new policy, I DID get a surprise. She said, “Well, sign up for it, for crying out loud. I’m not paying extra for them to mail me copies when I can print them here.”
Ah; baby steps. Paper- On-Demand. The surprise here is that, over time, even my wife, as technology-averse as anyone could be, has acclimated to today’s pervasive technology-filled environment to such an extent that paying extra for delivery of paper seems ridiculous. As recently as a couple of years ago, such an attitude would have been unthinkable. (My personal guess is that after a few months, printing of monthly statements will end. As I said, Baby Steps.)
From this little kitchen-counter experience I draw hope for courts that have for a long time been slow to implement paper-on-demand practices via Electronic Content Management (ECM). The classic curve of organizations’ readiness/willingness to engage in technological change is typically described as the spectrum from “Early Adopters” on the extreme front end, “Mainstream Adopters” as the technology becomes proven, and “Late Bloomers” once the technology has become ubiquitous. On this curve, my wife is on the far end of the “Late Bloomer” category. So is the legal profession in general, and many courts in particular. Ten years ago, ECM with workflow was mainly occurring in the “Early Adopter” courts, who were implementing paper-on-demand in a paper and wet ink signature-centric justice environment. Within the past five years, paper-on-demand has gone mainstream; and the justice environment (like the banking and financial world) has largely shifted to being organized to expect ECM in its operations.
Now it’s time for the Late Bloomers. My wife’s reaction to the bank’s notice gives me reason for being optimistic in thinking that attitudes among the least technologically aggressive courts may have evolved enough now to make the transition more welcome and less stressful than would have been though possible just a few short years ago.