Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons

Background

Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons is a private, non-profit public defense law firm with offices in Seattle and Kent, Washington.

Since its founding in 1976, the Society of Counsel has grown to a staff of more than 90 people dedicated to providing quality legal representation to indigent residents of King County. The staff consists of attorneys, investigators, paralegals, social workers, and clerical and administrative employees. Today, Society of Counsel provides representation to over 13,000 clients per year.

Society of Counsel provides representation to indigent minors accused of misdemeanor and felony offenses, and to parents and minors in abuse and neglect dependency cases. Additionally, the firm has contracted with the county to provide criminal public defender services.

The Society of Counsel is also involved in a unique partnership with local human services agencies and neighborhood groups to provide mentoring and legal representation to youths of color who are at risk of detention and in high need of social service intervention.

The Challenge

In 2009, Society of Counsel began to look for case management software designed specifically for public defenders to replace a legacy system which offered limited functionality and that only case managers were utilizing.

Because it provides such a wide array of services, the firm was looking for an electronic case management system that would provide the flexibility and functionality required to manage numerous types of cases.

In addition to its ability to handle almost any type of case, Legal Files further stood out from the competition because its web/browser-based version would enable Society of Counsel users to access data from any remote location. As an example, Legal Files would provide the Society of Counsel users with the functionality to create and update notes between cases at court.

Most importantly, the system would provide the Society of Counsel with the ability to extract data from Legal Files to meet its complex and ongoing reporting needs.

The organization evaluated many options and ultimately decided Legal Files was the right choice. According to Administrative Manager Melanie Oberlander, “Legal Files was the right choice for us because it’s extremely customizable and it meets our many and diverse needs.”

The Results

The Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons implemented the web/browser version of Legal Files to manage its cases, calendaring and documents.

Legal Files has automated several key functions for the Society of Counsel, including document assembly, document management, calendaring and tracking case history. And, since Legal Files integrates with Outlook for email, calendar and tasks; and uses Word as its document assembly editor, the software fit easily into the firm’s existing technical environment.

The firm has realized increased productivity and efficiency in the management of cases and well as management level reporting.

Customization

Legal Files is an extremely flexible application. It enables customers to build an unlimited number of case menu templates that correspond to the different types of cases/matters being handled.

Additionally, an unlimited number of custom windows can also be created and “attached” to the applicable file menus where specific information needs to be tracked. At the Society of Counsel, if an attorney has a case which needs the services of an investigator or social worker, a request is completed and submitted for approval to a manager. This is accomplished and captured via a Legal Files custom window the Society of Counsel created using built-in tools that require no programming or technical ability.

Remote Access

The Society of Counsel is using the web/browser-based version of Legal Files which can be accessed remotely. As long as a Society of Counsel user has access to Internet Explorer, he or she has access to Legal Files from any office or location, including a court room.

Bottom Line

“Legal Files has provided us a way to work together on our cases while minimizing duplicative documents and effort,” Melanie said. “We now have the ability to track statistics that we never could before, thereby helping provide even better service to our clients.”