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Recognition for legal team

Posted onPosted on 16th Feb

Nottinghamshire County Council’s Legal Services team has been shortlisted for a local government ‘Oscar’ for the innovative way it has used new technology to improve efficiency and save money.

The team has been shortlisted in the Driving Efficiency Through Technology category for the Local Government Chronicle LGC 2015 awards – one of the most prestigious award ceremonies in local government – to be held on 11 March this year.

The nomination is in recognition of their extensive work in switching from paper to electronic and online solutions, which has helped to streamline processes by using online, digital solutions for managing documents and filing.

The approach has led to significant financial savings, reducing the Council’s expenditure on Legal Services by 46% in the last two years. This has helped the team to bring back in-house its complex child protection work to help vulnerable children in Nottinghamshire – a move which is likely to continue saving the Council £850,000 each year.

Key changes introduced as part of the review of the team’s office processes included:
•scanning all incoming mail to create electronic documents
•operating wholly electronic case files
•standardising how files were saved and named to make them easy to find and giving people greater flexibility to work online from home or different sites
•using inexpensive, off-the-shelf software to create electronic court bundles without the need for printing and photocopying
•developing and piloting digital court rooms with the Nottinghamshire Family Courts
•piloting the use of and sending files securely by email (irrespective of file size) using Cryptshare technology which requires a password to open any confidential documents.

The changes have brought significant time and financial savings including:
•reducing the number of photocopiers from four to one and cutting the overall staff time spent photocopying by the equivalent of 53 weeks
•an 85% reduction in the amount of paper and toner cartridges used
•a 60% reduction in administrative support.

Geoff Russell, Team Manager, Litigation says: “This is revolutionising the way that our Family Courts are run. There are tremendous benefits and savings for all parties, not to mention better outcomes for children and families as cases are conducted and heard in a more cost effective and efficient way.

“Changing the way we work has been hard work but the benefits are impressive, particularly the opportunity to reinvest some of the savings we have made which, in turn, yields furthers savings such as taking back in-house our specialist child protection legal work.”

Sorriya Richeux, Team Manager, Corporate and Environmental Law, explains: “It’s been a real team effort to get here and our staff are just amazing. Without their resilience, willingness to embrace new concepts and at times, their patience, to take new ideas forward, this would not have been possible. I am delighted that our combined efforts are being recognised at a national level by the LGC 2015 awards.”

The team has also been working closely with the Nottinghamshire Family Courts service for 12 months to pioneer the introduction of electronic Court Bundles for use by judges and magistrates. Court Bundles – paper bundles of documents for court cases up to 15,000 pages in length – are traditionally put together by hand, in a very time consuming and laborious process.

The new electronic service for preparing court documents went live in January and means that all new cases conducted within the Magistrates court are now communicated and conducted electronically which has attracted considerable national interest.