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Solving the pain points of handling public records requests 

City and state government departments and municipal bodies are receiving more—and increasingly complex—public records requests each year. Here are four key ways that Thomson Reuters HighQ can help to process these requests efficiently.

Processing public (or open) records requests is becoming a bigger and more complex task for city and state government departments and municipal bodies each year. As more applications are made, the data pool expands, and sensitivities abound around what information is requested and why. With scrutiny intensifying amid pressure to respond within the required timetable, available resources become increasingly stretched, while prospects for securing extra budget to meet rising demand are slim.

Finding ways to simplify and streamline the request management process from request to response is vital. Doing so will ensure that requests are handled as swiftly and efficiently as possible—for the benefit of members of the public, but also for those that must deliver that information. Many civic offices and public organizations are finding that Thomson Reuters HighQ—the modern, adaptable solution to simplify legal processes—can help them to do just that.

HighQ works in four key ways to solve the major pain points inherent in public records request handling:

1.       Intake

HighQ enables dynamic intake forms, configured for your agency, to be created on official web pages for different types of requests. Members of the public can fill out a questionnaire which, once submitted, automatically delivers the information directly into the HighQ system and alerts the relevant people that a request has been filed.

2.       Tracking and Management

As soon as the request enters the system, a workflow is auto generated to support tracking and management of each step of the process. This includes timely alerts and reminders to ensure that all-important deadlines are not missed. Dashboards show progress on individual cases and across the caseload.

3.       Production and Collaboration

HighQ acts as a central repository for all data and documents required, and any type of file, including images and videos, can be stored within it. This is a critical enabler for collaboration and efficiency, so that everyone involved in gathering information for the request and producing the response has access to the files they need.

This makes a major difference within departments where multiple people are working on a request. But it is even more important where more than one department or body needs to work together. They can share files securely without having to email them back and forth, annotate documents, easily auto redact sensitive information in bulk, and more. Then a PDF report is produced with automated numbering or Bates stamping to be submitted back to the applicant in good time.

4.       Reporting

Having all this information contained within the HighQ system makes it quick and easy to produce annual reports. Automated creation of performance metrics can show how many requests were received, how much data had to be collated, how many pages of responses were required, what proportion of responses were made on time, and how many were late (and why).

This kind of reporting can be beneficial for departments seeking extra funding to cover the costs of request handling because it provides evidence of demand for these services and whether resources are sufficient to comply with legal obligations.

The groundswell of requests shows no sign of abating. It pays to think smarter about the best way to manage these requests going forward, including automating and allowing for greater collaboration. To find out more about how HighQ can help your organization smooth the process of delivering public records requests, visit https://legal.thomsonreuters.com/en/products/highq/request-demo.

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