The right tools can make it a breeze to respond to requests for information
We started discussing FOIA requests, requests for information and public records requests in the first part of this two-part blog series. Although each organization may have a different name for these types of requests, they all share some common characteristics.
They are becoming more common and can be time-consuming to respond to. However, they also follow the same rules and procedures. As a result, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel each time you respond to a FOIA request or request for information. In fact, with the right software and tools, you can implement a standardized process to follow whenever you receive a request.
We already discussed how Legal Files Software helps you stay organized by helping with tracking and assigning requests for information as well as conducting searches and reviewing information. Now, we’ll explain how Legal Files can help with the final steps of processing a records request and improve the way you handle these requests.
What happens after completing a document search in response to a request for information
As we mentioned in the previous blog, processing a records request requires your team to adhere to specific rules and regulations. It also may require teamwork from many team members to complete the following steps:
- Logging and tracking requests
- Assigning the request
- Searching for responsive records
- Reviewing responsive records for scope, content and applicability
- Applying exemptions and redactions
- Communicating with the requestor and collecting payment
It might seem like most of the work is finished after you complete your search and determine which information should be released, redacted or withheld. Although this is a large part of the process, your job isn’t over at this point. You still need to get the documents and other information to the requestor and collect payment in some cases. Legal Files can help you stay organized during these steps of the process as well.
Legal Files helps with the final steps of the process, including delivery and payment
When you’re handling requests for information or FOIA requests, the beginning and middle of the process are the most involved. However, the final steps are also critically important. This is when you hand over the documents to the requestor and, if necessary, collect payment.
The tracking feature in Legal Files helps you stay on track to meet the document production deadline. You can also use the tools in the software to review and produce the final documents that your team will give to the requestor. Our comprehensive tools help you ensure that you’re producing all the right information.
Tracking can also help with another important aspect of completing requests for information, which is tracking payments. Legal Files can track whether the person or entity making the records request has submitted the mandatory payment.
Although not all requests require payment, some of them cannot move forward without it. When payment is necessary, most requestors need to pay up front with the original request. However, sometimes payment is required before the documents and information can be released. Something else that varies is the payment amount. In many cases, the cost can vary based on the amount of work required to fulfill the request. Regardless of what payment looks like for your specific situation, Legal Files can help you with reminders, alerts and other tracking tools.
The tracking features in Legal Files help throughout the process
Staying on schedule is crucial when your team is responding to requests for information and records requests. For example, you must respond to federal FOIA requests within 20 days. When you’re reviewing a large amount of information, it’s important to stay organized in order to meet this strict deadline. To do this, many customers rely on Legal Files to keep track of deadlines.
Legal Files allows you to assign requests to a specific team member, which allows them to take responsibility for it. Along the way, Legal Files gives you and your team notifications to let you know when and how to follow up. The software also provides tasks/to-dos that help you stay on top of your checklist and stick to the timeline. As a bonus, you can review and contact everyone who is working on a request and make to-dos to follow up.
Other ways Legal Files helps you handle requests for information
Because Legal Files can track who is handling the request and how fast they’re handling it, the software can also help determine staffing and budget needs. If you find that your team is overwhelmed with requests for information and struggling to meet deadlines, you can use this information to support your request more staff or additional hours.
You can also view other trends, including when your team receives certain types of requests and which requests are the most common. Using this invaluable information, you can better plan your workflow and predict when you will see surges in certain types of requests.
In addition to the value that the software adds, the team at Legal Files can also help you manage and process requests for information. Our team has spent decades helping government agencies and other public sector organizations handle records requests and FOIA requests. During this time, we have developed best practices that we are happy to share with you to help streamline your request processing system.
Legal Files can help you change the way you handle requests for information
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by requests for information and FOIA requests, you aren’t alone. The growing number of requests has more public sector professionals and others looking for ways to streamline their response process. Many have found that Legal Files helps them take what was once a tedious process and turn it into an efficient one.
This two-part blog series has explained how Legal Files can help you and your team conquer records requests and stay ahead of the curve, from the beginning to the end of the process.