Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council has adopted a new case management system which has revolutionised its legal department.
The local authority had identified the need to make its legal department more like one that would be found in the private sector.
It chose specialist systems and business process services provider Civica to supply it with a case management system that would enable the council to move into the 21st century.
At Civica’s 2015 Expo last month, 24N caught up with Rochdale Council’s business manager Allan Jolly to learn more about the positive impact the new solution has had.
The local authority started looking for a solution that would allow it to adopt a more corporate image, eliminate paper, store information in one location with standardisation.
“We’re trying to move the legal services department from being a traditional legal in-house to more of a private sector style legal services,” Jolly explained.
“We’re trying to adopt private sector principles and ways of working,” he added.
Jolly explained that he had previously attended an earlier Civica Expo where he had seen a demo of the company’s case management system and he decided this was the solution Rochdale required.
However, he and his team did not realise the full potential of the product right away.
“Like a lot of local authorities we originally just used it as a time-recording system. So it was our way of recharging our costs to various local sector departments within the council for the work we did for them on a pro-rata basis,” Jolly explained.
He likened the case management system to a scientific calculator: although the device has numerous different functions, you tend to stick to a basic few, however, learning the extra function can have huge benefits.
Since adopting Civica Legal, Rochdale Council has been able to dramatically reduce its use of paper and adopt more electronic processes.
“It means that all the information is stored in one place. Previously, people would have a paper file but somebody might be off and it’s ‘where’s the file? Is it in the drawer or is it in the filing cabinet?’ and even with electronic documents some people have them down as email, some people would have them on their computer, someone would have it in their personal files,” Jolly said.
“[Civica] means everything is pulled together in one place so that has allowed us to develop those sort of processes and consistent ways of working,” he added.
However, Jolly feels that paperless is an impossibility in the legal sector and that “paper light” is a much more achievable goal.
“This has helped us move from a paper-intensive environment to paper light: we’re not paperless, we’re paper light and I don’t think we’ll ever achieve paperless in the legal services,” he said.
“For a lot of things, we don’t need paper files anymore, all the emails can be dragged and dropped [into the solution], the actual advice given can be recorded on a Word document and emailed to somebody, so everything’s electronic,” he explained.
Unfortunately, Jolly claimed, because other organisations have not yet adopted the paperless approach, it is impossible to go entirely paperless as they must use paper in some cases to meet the needs of others.
For example, many court documents remain on paper and this will not change for the foreseeable future.
The case management solution has also allowed Rochdale Council to become much more efficient as information no longer needs to be inputted multiple times and multiple departments have access to the system.
Civica also creates a full record with dates and times every time the case management system is used.
The council has been able to add a Project Plan that is available to all who need it and a training manual is readily available.
“One [advantage] is it’s a good learning tool for anybody new because it takes them through the process. It standardises our documentation because you might have three or four people doing it and everybody has a slightly different version of the actual document,” Jolly told 24N.
“It standardises everything so everything goes out in the same format, same fonts, same look, same feel. It gives us that corporate image,” he added.