Online. T’internet. World Wide Web (that’s an old one). On the line. What did we do without it? I tell my Teenage Units about having to plug the internet cable into the phone socket in the wall and wait for the crackling and pinging as the computer was connecting. Then they ask me if we had colour TV when I was little. Then I take their pocket money.
Seriously though, we expect to be able to do everything online now and it is hard to imagine a time when we couldn’t order groceries to be delivered the same day, a Henry VIIIth costume for the primary school play that the end of the week and even tigers on leads. (This last one was a result of wedding planning going mad on a difficult afternoon in the office. Hello Hannah and Andrew!).
It is not surprising that the court service is trying to catch up. As it should, quite frankly. The legal world is heavily reliant on paper. Reams of the stuff, a lot of it looked at once and then shredded. What a waste. I run my office on a paperless system and it is brilliant. It means I can share documents easily with my clients so we can work on them together. They can upload things directly to their files for me to see. I go to court with an electronic, paginated searchable bundle instead of having to drag suitcases of papers.
I was part of the consultation group for the online divorce pilot and then part of the testing group for divorce online for solicitors and the financial orders online for solicitors. I really like it. I suppose it is like anything to do with computers. If it works, it is great. If it does not work, then it is a real pain. We are at a painful point now where many solicitors who were not in the pilot are trying to get registered but the system is not working properly so as to let them.
This is a great shame. Since using the new system based at the ‘super centre’ in Stoke, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences. Divorce petitions issued the next day; decree nisi dates within 6 weeks. It is brilliant. I’m just not sure how long it will last though, given the lack of investment in IT into the court system.
I think online divorce and online financial orders are really time and, therefore, cost efficient for clients. I do not think we are there yet with a smooth running system. The divorce units, which were only set up within the last 2 or 3 years, are being closed down and that means paper being shunted from East Midlands to Liverpool to Bury St Edmunds. It is a mess for those cases already part way through.
What would be even better would be the facility to be able to send to the court all the documents electronically, meaning that the judge can pick up the file wherever they are and see what is happening. It would save on paper. It would save on court staff time filing and sorting. Then we can move on to using telephone hearings more effectively, saving time and money again, and using video conferencing in the same way that businesses do. At present, there is a lot of organising and trouble that goes on with setting up a video conference.
My view is that we can and should make the technology work for us as we want it to, not that we change our behaviour to fit in with the technology. I can see there are definitely ways to reduce delay an increase efficiency within the court service. We are not there yet.
For my own part, I use every technological method I can to make like easier for my clients. I will use text, WhatsApp, email, Skype, Zoom and even the good old-fashioned post. What ever suits you.
If you would like to have the advantage of your solicitor being in the online system already, contact me.