How the backlog may reshape the future of the courts
As court backlogs continue to grow, everyone is looking for ways to expedite the legal process while maintaining the sanctity of the court. Whether it's judges or law clerks, attorneys or clients, moving things along quickly without sacrificing integrity is imperative. The need to reevaluate how courts can increase efficiency has become more and more critical.
The courts have always been considered a pillar of tradition and formality. And sometimes formality slows progress.
Legal technology, such as electronic filing and online legal research, helped streamline certain aspects of the court system. But with a growing backlog and no clear plan of how to increase efficiency and improve processes on a large scale, it's an extraordinary challenge for the courts. They must learn how to carve a way forward, giving everyone their day in court while ensuring the process is still held to the same high standard.
Maneuvering through this environment will involve a great deal of foresight and innovation. What transpires during these times will likely give us insight as to how the courts will continue to progress—and may even offer a glimpse into the court of the future.
What have courts been doing so far?
Judges, attorneys, and clients have adapted quickly to the virtual courtroom setting. Using tools like Zoom, YouTube, and even Facebook Live, the court system has often kept up with non-jury hearings and other matters while maintaining the standards expected of a public hearing. They have worked through many of the glitches of using legal technology, and they now feel relatively comfortable in this new way of operating.
In fact, some judges have noted that virtual courtrooms have increased their efficiency in getting through those proceedings. Going virtual has eliminated the need for judges to travel to different courts; less traveling means they can get through their dockets much more quickly. The same time-saving benefit holds true for attorneys and their clients.
Unfortunately, the current inability to conduct virtual jury trials means many criminal and civil proceedings have been stalled. As months go by, those backlogs continue to grow.
How will courts get through the backlog?
Efficiency in all areas is going to be key in moving ahead and catching up. Courts need to explore their ability to speed things up, and this will be an ongoing necessity.
One such way is to quickly adopt new legal research technology that focuses on making courts more efficient. Fortunately, that technology exists. Westlaw Edge's Quick Check Judicial helps judges and law clerks quickly analyze and review multiple documents from a single matter. This can reduce the time the courts—as well as attorneys—need to pore over legal briefs and documents.
By decreasing the amount of time it takes to manually check citations and quotations across multiple filings, courts can review documents at a speed not previously possible. This type of dramatic time-saving resolution will be key.
Stick with what's working
Another way courts would like to get through the backlog is to continue with virtual hearings. There is hope that they will be able to continue holding proceedings for hearings and matters that have been held virtually throughout the pandemic.
The increased efficiency that is noted above may be critical to working through the backlog. If that continues, they can more easily get through those cases while also adding back in jury trials and other in-person proceedings.
The court of the future
These methods of making courts more efficient will likely revolutionize courts as we know them. Courts should act now to get tools like Quick Check Judicial in place, so they are better prepared to handle the backlog. Combining the sanctity, formality, and traditions of the court system with evolving legal technology will make courts an even more powerful representation of justice.