President's Message March/April 2017

Using Technology to Our Benefit
Armando E. Batastini, Esq.

President, Rhode Island Bar Association

It bears repeating that once fully-functional, the e-filing system will be a dramatic improvement.  While the bugs are being worked out, I encourage patience.
To cop a phrase from Bill Reynolds, two mini-columns for the price of one:

A.    E-Filing

By now, most members are aware that the state judiciary is in the process of transitioning from paper files to an e-filing system.  Yes, there have been some complications with the transition.  Those issues are discussed below.  However, I respectfully suggest that a broader, historic perspective is beneficial.

The “old” system of paper filing carried with it substantial limitations.  That system was inefficient and expensive.  All of us who litigate can tell stories of files gone missing, delayed or undelivered pleadings and discovery, and the necessity to maintain and transport paper files, sometimes of substantial bulk.  Any larger filing in a multi-party or multi-attorney case required the copying of multiple sets of voluminous pages, sometimes in the hundreds, all at great expense.  And, online access of pleadings was non-existent.  The new e-filing system eliminates the great majority of these problems.

The implementation of e-filing has had its difficulties -- any new system generally does.  I am acutely aware of these issues, as I have fielded many communications from members on this topic, and spent a good deal of time addressing these concerns.

Here’s what the Bar Association is doing to assist during the transition.  The Technology Committee, and more particularly its Chairs, Tom Lyons and Michael Goldberg, have formed an ad hoc Committee regarding e-filing.  That Committee extended invitations to all the bench-bar committees for representatives.  The Committee’s purpose is to identify and prioritize issues, as they arise, and communicate with the judiciary about these issues and potential fixes.

I can report that the judiciary has been very responsive to the Committee’s input, and is working diligently towards a fully operational system. 

I add, candidly, that not all of the input that the Bar has received regarding e-filing relates to system problems.  Some users are not adequately familiarizing themselves with the way with which the system operates.   Additionally, some complaints are borne out of disaffection to change and the creep of technology, rather than issues with system functionality.

It bears repeating that once fully-functional, the e-filing system will be a dramatic improvement.  While the bugs are being worked out, I encourage patience.  If, in the interim, you have concerns that you want to address to the Bar Association, please contact the Technology Committee or, as always, me.

B.    Bar Technology

One of the focuses for this year has been to improve the Bar’s use of technology to benefit members.  This effort has taken two tangible forms.  We are actively exploring ways to attract more persons using the internet for legal research and resources to the Lawyer Referral Service.  The aspirational end-product is a limited self-help center that links to the Referral Service.  We have investigated available options, and some states have initial products online that perform some, but not all of the functions we would like.  These products also have some unresolved questions, such as the criteria for the selection process for recommended lawyers.  We have also looked into development of a stand-alone product, but costs are prohibitive.  We will continue looking until we identify an affordable product that is robust enough to deliver value for the Bar.

We are also in the process of tracking practice management programs that the Bar can provide as a member benefit.  There is a specific product that has had a limited roll-out to certain states that appears promising, but is not quite ready yet.  We will keep you informed on these efforts.