In the last few years, we have been approached periodically by vendors wanting to sell us office software. For one reason and another, usually the high cost, we have never adopted any of these programs. Instead, we have used off the shelf software to develop our own merge forms, etc. after some time experimenting, the #2 felony guy and myself (the misd, juvenile, and kitchen sink guy) have settled on MS Access, although our databases are mutually exclusive. We use MS Word for word processing. Our county also uses "Net-Data", which I guess is OK, but it doesn't help me produce judgments, orders, and motions. I wish it would... it would save me or my secretary "double-entering" data.
Other than that, I don't specifically have a problem; I'm just looking for anyone else who uses a home made system like this for advice,etc.
We use MS Word, as it seems to have the most universal approach to form creation, including merge and stationary type documents.
You also should check out the web site for the Office of Court Administration, which has posted felony judgment forms that can be downloaded and used through MS Word or as PDF files:
Dealing with software vendors is very dangerous. While I admit that we use MS Word and the search and replace. We use Time Matters for Data Base management. However, you will get more usage out of one you create than a total solution sold you by a suede shoe promoter.
We use a software program that I am pretty happy with. But here's the big problem: in our small office, there is no one who has the time to figure out all the software can do. I am the "network administrator", and those of you who know me realize that it's a very scary concept when I'm the most computer-literate person in the group. The software we purchased was reasonable, and I get good support when I have a problem. But I just don't have the time to sit down and figure out all the features, much less teach them to others.
I've tried putting all of our pleadings and judgments into Word merge files, and I find that while this is really convenient for me, I'm the only one who is coming close to using this feature to its fullest extent. Everyone thinks it's just easier to change the information in a previous form.
The bottom line is that in a small office in a poor rural county, there is no computer geek to lead us!
When I took office over a year ago the first thing I did was to template most all of my office's forms. To do a plea you have to type in a little of the information and it merges the rest of the forms for the plea. I did this in MS-Word. I tried to work with Net-Data to do this but found their program not to be user friendly. Check with Wise county, County Attorney's office. I believe that Net-Data may have a PC / MS-Word compatibility. But I am not sure. I templated all info/compl., Mental Health Papers, Juvenile papers, other forms. This made every thing easy. If you questions contact me at the Hunt County Attorney's Office. 903-408-4112
I have been very pleased with the CLASS software we installed over one year ago. They are out of Victoria and generally have an advertisement in the Prosecutor magazine.
I can generate monthly disposition reports on all cases for all the law enforcement agencies, do a year-end media report on types of cases indicted, etc. I can generate any report on any type or types of cases, such as juvenile, etc.
It incorporates templates for all pleadings, etc. Additionally, it has hot check software which makes it an all-in-one system.
There isn't one... we are STILL (5 years later) using homeade software.
Jeez... this post is still up?
I've been in "the business" of computer consulting for over 10 years.
It is this easy: If you have ever purchased a car, then you have experience in dealing with software vendors. In other words, don't buy anything until you have done your research.
Salesmen are salesmen (a good one can sell ice to Eskimos), and in an unregulated industry like information technology, snake oil salesmen abound. Do your homework, call some friends, get other opinions. Which, by your post, you are light years ahead of 99% of everyone else.
Good products tend to sell themselves, bad products tend to require heavy marketing. Put another way: The short term is long enough to get rich...at least in a big town like Dallas. Just like cars, word of mouth is always the best way. Also keep in mind that while someone might be able to build you a car, why bother? So watch out for the consultants who tell you to "customize," they are just as dangerous.
This post is probably more important now than ever as technology has driven products to market. We are actively installing Odyssey by Tyler Technologies. Several other counties are too. All is through the Conference on/of Urban Counties, so they can work a good deal for all of us. There are some other products like Judicial Dialogue and some company out of Utah that called out of the blue the other day. Tarrant County also wrote their own program that they are selling. Anyway, there are more options now, but do the research to see what fits your business practices best. We did.
"The bottom line is that in a small office in a poor rural county, there is no computer geek to lead us!"
Our only "computer geek" left Waller County a number of years ago.
A good place to start might be with the Computer & Technology Section of the State Bar of Texas.
You can email all the council members with certain questions at: council<at>sbot.org
(replace the <at> with @)
From my experience on the council (as a quasi-student member), you will receive a lot of excellent answers, guidance, and technical advice relating to software and other issues unique to the legal industry. It is nonprofit and does not endorse any particular product or service.
Membership is currently free, and the council just did a big presentation on July 25th, 2008. I am told it was excellent.
In these days of email, flash presentations, and elearning, a resident computer geek should not be necessary. Simply require a few of your people to enroll in some online courses for your particular software package. Give them some CLE credit (if possible), and let them (i.e., require them to) do it while at the office and there should be no problems.
Packaged (ready made) vs. Custom Applications: Think Honda, not Ferrari...you just want to get from point A to point B reliably, consistently, and cheaply. You can buy a whole new Honda for less than it costs to change the spark plugs on a Ferrari and, in a pinch, even your neighbor "the backyard mechanic" can do routine maintenance on the Honda. A custom-built Ferrari is one bad-a55 machine...when it runs. When (not if) it breaks, it is a money pit.
Also keep in mind the high turnover within the IT industry. 12-18 months before changing companies is not uncommon. Therefore, if you get a custom built application, chances are that when (not if), it breaks, the guy(s) who built it probably do not work at the company that built it for you. So, in the end, you'll just end up buying whatever everybody else has been using anyway...unless you were asleep during the "sunk cost" portion of Accounting 101 in undergrad.
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