By Sarah Song, Senior Supervising Program Manager, Access to Justice Division
The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice and the Justice For All (JFA) Grant Advisory Committee are pleased to announce the publication of a new report titled Improving the E-Filing Experience for Self-Represented Litigants in Illinois. This report is the culmination of in-depth research conducted by Abhijeet Chavan, a nationally recognized consultant in legal technology, to systematically catalogue the e-filing experience of SRLs in Illinois and uncover areas for improvement. For 10 months, Mr. Chavan reviewed surveys completed by actual SRL e-filers, and met with court navigators and circuit clerks who serve SRL e-filers on a daily basis, to learn about the e-filing experience in the current eFileIL platform. He also interviewed legal technology vendors to gauge what is in the marketplace that could address the identified needs. The final report sets forth key observations and recommendations for improving e-filing not just for the benefit of SRLs but for the benefit of all court stakeholders.
Mr. Chavan’s research revealed challenges with the current e-filing system in Illinois. Additionally, he found challenges not only at the point of e-filing but further upstream in an SRL’s journey caused by the inefficient and disorganized delivery of information and resources to the litigant. It also shed light on the unrealistic burdens placed on SRL e-filers to understand and recognize legal jargon and hyperlocal court business processes, which to the filers seemed to be information held solely by judges, clerks, and lawyers. The research also uncovered more worrisome effects—a bad user experience with e-filing could undermine trust and confidence in the justice system.
The report outlines the following recommendations: (1) support SRLs’ entire e-filing journey by creating a user experience that is designed specifically for SRLs and provides seamless support; (2) simplify court processes and reduce jurisdictional variations; (3) build upon existing legal technology initiatives; (4) consider a modular technology approach; and (5) start with a viable project. In light of these recommendations and how long it will take to implement them, the JFA Advisory Committee proposed enhancing human-centered measures to help SRLs e-file until the other recommendations can be achieved. The ATJ Commission and JFA Advisory Committee will work on an implementation plan.
We appreciate the support from the AOIC and are grateful for all the court navigators, circuit clerks, and AOIC staff members who participated in this research by sharing their valuable time and expertise.