Paperless Productivity – Episode 5 – Before eCourts

Kate Storey:                       Welcome to The Paperless Productivity Podcast, where we give you the tips, tricks, and know-how to solve your biggest workflow challenges, and bring greater productivity into your workplace everyday.

Every year, eCourts is one of the justice community’s most highly anticipated events. It’s where some of the biggest topics, challenges, and solutions are discussed with those leading the way and shaping the modern court. Today, we’re so excited to be joined by Jesse Rutledge, the Vice President of External Affairs for the National Center for State Courts, which hosts eCourts.

Welcome to today’s podcast, Jesse.

Jesse Rutledge:                 I’m glad to be here.

Kate Storey:                       Great. Now I also want to mention that Jesse is no stranger to the podcast scene, as he is the host of the NCSC’s own podcast, “Court Talk.” Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Jesse Rutledge:                 Yeah, I’d love to. It’s something that we started about, 3-ish years ago, maybe a little under three years ago, when we were sitting around the table thinking how could we better communicate out to the court community and to our audience, and sort of following on the heels of the popularity of the serial podcast, we started to think about whether we had the kind of material and the time and the resources to create our own. So, we gave it a shot, and three years later we are putting them out, about once a month or so. It’s a great opportunity for us to talk to people who maybe work for the National Center and want to talk about a project that they are wrapping up, or we’ve had great conversations with some judges about issues that they’re seeing in the administration of justice. We’ve talked to members of the media and lots of others, so we have kind of a diverse set of guests and so far, I think it’s going pretty well. We came in with modest expectations, and I think those have been met and hopefully exceeded.

Kate Storey:                       Absolutely. There’s no shortage of topics to cover is there?

Jesse Rutledge:                 No. There are not. There are too many things for us to talk about and not enough time.

Kate Storey:                       Absolutely. Well we’re certainly excited to have you on the other side of the microphone today.

I’m also happy to welcome Brad Smith, the Senior Justice Consultant for ImageSoft, who has been a regular fixture at eCourts, is going to take us through today’s conversation with Jesse.

Hi Brad.

Brad Smith:                         Hi Kate, how are you?

Kate Storey:                       Good, how are you?

Brad Smith:                         Good. As you mentioned, eCourts and CTC’s some of the highlight events that all of the vendors in the community really look forward to…Been meeting Jesse for years, now. And so I’m really excited that Jesse can join us for today’s telecast.

Kate Storey:                       Absolutely.

Brad Smith:                         Okay, hey Jesse, and again, thank you once again for getting with us. I have found recently, going to different events, different clerk conferences, different judges conferences, there’s a lot of new individuals that are coming to the courts community. For example, in Tennessee, there was 31 different court clerks out of the 95. So, how do you, at the National Center for State Courts explain some of the differences between eCourts, which is in Vegas and the CTC conference?

Jesse Rutledge:                 Well, that’s a great place to begin, Brad.

I guess there’s a couple ways that we approach it here. There are some structural differences that kind of set them apart. So for one thing, the Court Technology Conference, which is held in odd numbered years, is kind of a bigger show attendance wise. We tend to get more people, more bodies. It’s got a bigger exhibit hall floor. We have more sessions, and they’re typically held at a convention center. So we’re doing five or six concurrent education tracks.

And eCourts is a little bit different. It’s held the even numbered years, it’s always held in Las Vegas, whereas CTC kind of moves around, and eCourts is smaller. We like to think of it as a little more intimate even though it’s certainly growing. Probably the biggest difference is in how the education is provided. At eCourts, it’s all taking place in one room. So everybody at the conference is hearing the same thing, the same message. It’s very focused. That I think provides sort of a different atmosphere because everybody is kind of talking about the same issues and maybe what they heard a speaker say. So there’s some structural differences that I think make them distinct from one another. I think there are other differences too, but those differences maybe are starting to blur.

eCourts, for many, many years was a conference initially about privacy, and that kind of became a conference about e-filing. Now it’s kind of evolved into a conference about the entire digital ecosystem around courts and justice. CTC is also sort of similar to that because of the way that it’s tracked, where you can have a variety of different topics covered by different speakers in different sessions. In some ways, they’re starting to feel a little more similar than they used to, but we’re still having a very positive reception to both of them.

Brad Smith:                         Right. Right. I certainly feel the same way. Over the years that I’ve been attending the conferences, you see certain vendors come and go. You have, of course, the stalwarts, the people that are always there year in and year out. But have you noticed a difference over the last couple years between the vendors that are attending now and maybe that addresses some of the things you were talking about, how we’re dealing with the ecosystem?

Jesse Rutledge:                 Yeah, I think that you’re right, that there’s also been kind of an evolution in who’s interested in coming to participate as exhibitors or sponsors at these meetings. Which, in some ways is kind of tracked to where the substance of the conference has evolved, and I think both of those are kind of tracking trends in government and courts generally. So it all kind of makes sense. It’s certainly not the same as it used to be.

We talk about a digital ecosystem. We’ve kind of moved away from the days where the conversation was just entirely about case management and case management systems, or really even just e-filing and e-filing solutions. The exhibitors who are participating these days range from everything from payment processors and debt collectors, to firms that will do audio and/or video recording – keeping the record – focused on the digital bench these days, and evolving even further into ODR platforms software that handles online dispute resolution, document redaction for sensitive information, and even further out into the digital ecosystem, legal service providers that are increasingly trying to connect SRLs – Self Represented Litigants – kind of into the system. I think what’s going on here is a reflection of what’s happening in the world, and the conference is responding to that, and not surprisingly, the market is responding to that. That’s sort of reflected on the exhibit hall floor.

Brad Smith:                         The one thing I was noticing as well in talking to your staff is that the attendance for this year’s show, I know we’re at the Cosmopolitan this year, and I believe it’s growing to the point where we’re gonna move to a different venue.

Jesse Rutledge:                 Yeah, we are.

Brad Smith:                         I’m just trying to figure out exactly, where do you see…What is the reason behind the growth do you think? Aside from technology today, but certainly moving forward with that?

Jesse Rutledge:                 That’s a great question, and there are probably so many different reasons for why eCourts has grown the way that it has. We’ve actually had to continue to kind of move the meeting to a larger venue every couple of years for the last decade. We were at the Red Rock, which is kind of off of the Las Vegas Strip out near the Summerlin neighborhood of Las Vegas for several years, and then we sort of heard from the community that they wanted to be back on the Strip, and so we looked for a larger venue on the Strip and that was where we settled at our current location, the Cosmopolitan. We’ve had a couple of years of success, and again we’re sort of busting at the seams, so in 2020 and 2022 we’re gonna move eCourts over to the MGM Grand, which is a lovely place and has even a larger capacity for both attendees and for a bigger and more dynamic exhibit hall.

As to why this is happening, I’d like to think that it’s principally the quality of the education that we’re offering to the community. It’s high, it’s always been high, but maybe we’re making it a little stronger. It’s also the diversity of topics. When you diversify the sessions that you are talking about, it brings in new constituents. Maybe you’ve got more judges and attorneys coming to this meeting in the past because of some of the policy issues around access to justice that maybe in a more pure technology conference they might not come. I think it’s a number of factors. It’s probably also, if we’re being honest, a reflection of the strength of the economy at the moment. The states have funds to spend on training, and because we’re at the forefront of doing that, they’re coming to eCourts. It’s a great problem to have. I would much rather have this problem than put on an event and have nobody attend. So we’re pleased with how it’s going.

Brad Smith:                         Addressing one of the topics you have on the education side is Rebooting Justice, Professor Barton’s discussion, what courts will look like in 2030. We touched on that in the industry summit that you all put on about a month or so ago, but what do you think the reaction’s gonna be?

Jesse Rutledge:                 It’s gonna be so interesting. As the organizers of these conferences, one of the major objectives is to recruit keynote speakers who will come in and really challenge the conventional wisdom, make people think outside of the box, and in some respects, make them a little uncomfortable. We want people to be sort of itching in their chairs. We want them to be thinking critically about the status quo, and what the system might look like in the future.

My expectation is that our keynote speaker at eCourts is Professor Ben Barton from University of Tennessee Law School. He’s coming to talk about this book that he and a co-author recently put out called Rebooting Justice. My expectation is that he’s gonna talk about many of the themes of his book, which are chiefly that the justice system and the courts have become too complex, too time consuming, too expensive. People don’t feel like they’re getting good customer service. They feel like the system is not accessible. I think the reaction is gonna be some combination of “Yes, he’s right, we need to fix this,” and perhaps some people who are just not necessarily as comfortable with that message, but again, that’s a good goal for us if we set up an event where we have somebody come in and really challenge people to think. What we want at the end of the keynote session is for people to still be talking about it in the concluding session in the conference. We want to sort of set the tone and have people sort of deliberate on that message over the course of those couple of days.

Brad Smith:                         As you know, in the courts market, thinking outside of the box is sometimes, kind of an uncomfortable experience. One of the other things that we’d been talking about in our podcast as well as just in general in the courts community, is this kinda newfound approach when it comes to the Component Model. Certainly, back in the day, it used to be vendors would say, “Hey we can check all the boxes, we can do it all ourselves,” and I’ve found recently speaking with not only people from your organization, but some of the others that they’re finding a Best of Breed approach or finding people that do something extremely well and then having it being interoperable with other particular solutions out there. Since the technology is really allowing for that, I certainly wanted to get your opinion on that as well.

Jesse Rutledge:                 So we have whole, kind of host of good education sessions over these two and a half days, including one that you’re describing right now, the benefits of the Court Component Model Approach. Our two speakers for that session are going to be Jim Harris, my colleague here at NCSC, and Casey Kennedy, who is the Director of IT at the Texas Office of Court Administration. They’re gonna sort of sink into that and spend some time looking at it.

I think it’s gonna be of interest to the attendees and to the exhibitors. These monolithic, one-size-fits-all case management systems are sort of going the way of the dodo bird, and the challenges now are how to adapt to new needs – complex functionality and dynamic workflows – requirements that are constantly changing. User interfaces that are more intuitive, these are all challenges, and the new systems also have to allow for access to the data. You have to be able to get it out so it can be analyzed, so you can measure performance across any number of different areas, and then you also have to be able to share the information with other partners and the public, and the media, and justice system partners. It’s gonna be really interesting to listen to Jim and Casey talk a bit about this approach and what some of the benefits are. A good example of one of the great sessions we’re expecting to have at eCourts.

Brad Smith:                         Great.

Kate Storey:                       I think it’s really safe to say that if you’re not attending eCourts this year, you’re really gonna miss out on a lot of these hot topics.

Jesse, are there any options to access some of the information that’s being shared at eCourts once it’s over? Or is there a way for people to follow some of the conversations that are being shared on eCourts on social media?

Brad Smith:                         Yeah, absolutely, Kate. I’ll begin by saying that at this point, our conference is sold out, which is a great problem, again, for us to have. We do have a waiting list, so if you’re still available to come, you can sign up for the waiting list. We’re clearing a handful of people off it. But if you end up not being able to attend, then you can watch it on the internet. We’re gonna livestream on the conference website, which is e-courts.org. If you can’t catch the livestream, then standby for a couple of days after that and we’ll have streaming sessions up online for people to watch at their convenience. Then hopefully, and I know this is always one of the fun parts of one of these conferences, lots of discussion online, principally using LinkedIn and Twitter. Our hashtag for people who want to follow it is #ecourts2018. Hopefully that gets even more people involved in the conversation.

Kate Storey:                       Absolutely. It should be really fun to watch how that all unfolds and how it all comes together.

Well thank you so much to both Jesse and Brad for leading us in today’s conversation. We hope you got some great insights from the discussion, and perhaps we’ll see you all at eCourts as well.

Thanks so much for joining us today, and if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to Paperless Productivity, so you won’t miss out on all the great information shared in future episodes, like this one. We’ll see you next time.

Thanks again for joining us today for this episode of Paperless Productivity. This podcast is sponsored by ImageSoft, The Paperless Process People, which you can learn more about at imagesoftinc.com. That’s imagesoftinc.com. Join us next time, where you’ll learn how to harness the power of technology, supercharge efficiency, and accomplish your organization’s goals.