County Case Studies
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Oneida County Assigned Counsel
Paper Free Assigned Counsel Program Brings More Order to the Courts and County
In a typical month, between 150 and 200 contract attorney vouchers pass through the Oneida County Supplemental Assigned Counsel Program Office. Before switching the paperwork to Laserfiche, the process cluttered up desks in the courts, county departments and attorneys’ offices while filling up filing cabinets in both the Law Department and the Audit and Control Office. Laborious, error-prone manual procedures meant that attorneys sometimes didn’t see payment for as long as six months after a trial ended.
That’s all changed now, thanks to a Laserfiche form that consolidates 12 pages or more of Assigned Counsel Program documents into a single online report with electronic signatures, scanned supporting attachments and built-in records management. The bulky files of hand-calculated timesheets, copies of receipts and signed affidavits are no more. Email and workflow replaced cover letters, envelopes and postage and inter-office routing. Best of all, attorneys receive payment within an average of two weeks.
A “Top 10 Digital County” Invests in Digital Transformation
For three years running Oneida’s been named a Top Digital County by the Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties for best technology practices. In 2017 the County made the Top 10 nationwide.
Oneida knows Laserfiche. Virtually every County department uses the software, with close to 150 county users. The list of Laserfiche Workflows and Forms implementations grows every year, including trial case management, contract administration, Board of Elections petitions, and Department of Planning Section 239 submission. In the words of County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr., “We are attempting to move into the digital age and ensure that documents and forms are handled and routed in the most efficient way possible. The end goal is to run government more effectively and to provide benefits and savings for agencies and taxpayers.”
The Assigned Counsel Program continues this initiative, extending the benefits of Laserfiche to 65 contract attorneys and 65 judges presiding over local Municipal Courts, City Courts, Family Court, County Court, Supreme Court and Surrogate’s Court.
New York State Funding Drives Development
Kimberly Strong Flint is Oneida County’s Contract Administrator. She oversees the Supplemental Assigned Counsel Program and the County’s departmental contracts and government grants. “We’d been using Laserfiche Workflow to process contracts as they moved from County departments to the Law Department for review, and then to the County Executive and Board of Legislators for execution before moving to the Audit and Control Department for payment,” she said.
“When I learned about Laserfiche Forms, I absolutely wanted to do something similar with the Assigned Counsel Program. I applied to the NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services, who loved the idea and awarded us a multi-year grant to get it done.”
Inside Knowledge and Partnership Stand Up Insightful Solution
Flint turned to Sandy Brennan at General Code for help. “Sandy’s been our trainer and project point person for years, so she understands how county government works. This process has many, many moving parts and so many people to integrate with different functions in several organizations. It’s not a straight line, either. Sandy and Scott Wilson – our Laserfiche guru at General Code – worked with me to figure out what we needed and how to get it from Laserfiche Workflow and Forms.”
Along the way, this team met with stakeholder attorneys and judges, reviewed prototypes with focus groups and adjusted their pilot using feedback from about eight test users. Phased training and the rollout of the new Assigned Counsel Program took place over a course of months. Daily lunch-hour mini-webinar training sessions offered users support and answered questions. Eventually all Family, County, City, Town and Village Courts joined in.
The Benefits of Streamlining Flow from Assignment to Notification to Vouching to Payment and Archiving
Kim Flint runs out of fingers before she runs out of reasons to like her new Assigned Counsel Program. “For one thing,” she said, “I’m no longer wearing out the carpet between my desk and the filing cabinets. Seriously, we replaced a cumbersome, error-prone process and a corresponding space-intensive filing scheme with a paperless Laserfiche Assigned Counsel Program solution that takes full advantage of the software’s forms, workflow and records management. And we’re integrating with our financial system and with the New York State Court systems for reconciling Attorney court time. It’s saving the County – and the Courts – a lot of time, effort and expense.”
A Statewide Opportunity for Greater Efficiency
Oneida County’s success is pointing the way for other assigned counsel programs in New York State. “This was a terrific partnership effort with Oneida,” says Dan Foster, General Code’s general manager. “We packaged what we learned into our GCStreamline Assigned Counsel Solution to make implementation in other venues much faster. Tompkins County is going live just a few months after Oneida County. Once the team made a few adjustments to align with the specific way Tompkins prefers to manage the process, they were on their way.”
As Kim Flint points out, “The New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services awarded the grant that made this project possible with the intention that it will improve the way Assigned Counsel Programs are managed throughout the state. With Tompkins becoming the second county to get on board, I think we proved that we succeeded. The program reduces the administrative burden for the Courts, the attorneys and the County departments involved. In my opinion, the only limits to working with Laserfiche are those that are self-imposed.”
Oneida County’s Transaction Flow for GCStreamline Assigned Counsel Solution
Streamline the Management of Your County’s Indigent Legal Services
General Code has developed a solution that increases the efficiency of overburdened court systems by streamlining the Assigned Counsel process. Our solution simplifies the process of applying for indigent services, assigning attorneys, as well as the submission of bills for services rendered. It reduces the time and paperwork needed to review submitted bills at all levels (Judicial review, Assigned Counsel review and Audit & Control payments).
Our Assigned Counsel solution contains the following:
- Application for Indigent Services
- Automated assignment letters and notifications
- Attorney voucher system
- Tracking of Counsel at First Arraignment
- Reporting based on case type, attorney, date, etc.
- Ability to attach any supporting documentation electronically
- Ability to archive and include records management principals
- Apply electronic signatures
- Built-in JCR
- Records Management & Records Retention
Integration with the NYS Unified Court System database is in development and expected to be completed within the next few months.