Maintaining Dual Systems
Two Systems at Once: A Recipe for Disaster
At implementation, electronic records processes were instituted within the Clerk's Office alone, while the paper court record system remained in place for Clerk's Office customers. This dual system structure was intended to last a very short while. However, while the Clerk's Office was prepared to transition to a fully electronic record, its customers remained attached to the paper system. Reluctance to fully adopt an electronic record resulted in the Clerk's Office maintaining dual systems for almost two years. This proved to be a back (and morale) breaking task.
Over time, it became clear that continued maintenance of both systems would be impossible. The Clerk's Office lost staff due to the long-term drain on employees; morale among remaining staff was low. Nearing the bottom of staff reserves, a fire at the Juvenile Justice Center destroyed some paper records. This loss of the hard copy files provided an unexpected lesson to Clerk's Office's constituents regarding the importance and usefulness of electronic records. Soon thereafter, the Clerk's Office compiled statistics that showed the Clerk had seen a near 75% drop in requests for hard copy files since making some electronic records available. The files lost in the fire, in combination with the compelling statistics, convinced the court that transition to an exclusively electronic record was in order. With the court's support, the Clerk was able to transition to a fully electronic record.
Though running dual systems for such an extended length of time is definitely not recommended, one benefit of running two systems was that judges and attorneys were able to acclimate to the electronic record over time. When forced by circumstances to choose between a paper or electronic record system these users were able, from their own experiences, to recognize the value of transitioning to a more fully electronic record.