New US Report Examines Remote Services for SRLsNSRLP
A new report prepared by John Greacen for the Self-Represented Litigation Network (released July 2016) considers data collected from Alaska, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Utah, and California, and sheds light on the provision of remote legal service access for self-represented litigants.
“Serving Self-Represented Litigants Remotely: A Resource Guide,” is a hot-off-the-press strategic planning resource for how jurisdictions might better serve remote users who are representing themselves. The study consisted of onsite observation of remote service delivery, interviews with service providers, judges, and court staff, data collection on program characteristics, and focus groups and interviews with remote services users. The data is presented as findings and recommendations that are important reading for all courts and jurisdictions, since distance to a courthouse is an Access to Justice issue.
The report does not offer a one-size-fits-all template for remote service provision; instead, Greacen writes that “one of the major learnings of the study is the need to tailor remote service programs to the jurisdiction and clientele to be served.” Among the study’s findings is the importance that participants place on telephone and web service; “providing services in a way that does not require the public to visit a courthouse or office is advantageous in terms of time and cost savings,” both for service providers and users. Greacen also found that there are advantages in utilizing overlapping services for remote users – the advantages of one method help cover the disadvantages of another. For example, basic information can be provided by a website, at all hours, while more complicated questions can be answered by phone or web chat during regular service hours. Finally, the study emphasizes enhanced access through mobile devices; Greacen notes that “the smartphone is fast becoming the communication method of choice for users, and all services need to be provided in a format usable on a smartphone screen.”