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Voice messaging system courts legal workers.

With more governmental belt-tightening at all levels, court and law enforcement officials throughout the country seek more efficient ways to communicate and deliver services to the public. Through an innovative series of voice messaging applications called LegalMail, South Carolina courts and law enforcement have found an effective solution.

It is a confidential, interactive series of custom-designed voice messaging applications that meet the demanding communications needs of courts, lawyers, law enforcement and others within the legal community.

"I can sum up the advantages in three words...accessibility, efficiency and confidence," says Thomas H. Comerford, Clerk of Courts for Lexington County, S.C.

Comerford inherited a communications nightmare when he took office--budget cuts, increased legal cases, more demands for information and services, and less staff.

According to Comerford, accessibility has been improved because citizens can now reach his office 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from the privacy of their homes, without getting a busy signal or being put on hold.

Increased efficiency is also apparent because the staff no longer plays telephone tag--they can research questions and get back to citizens with the answers in a timely manner.

In addition, lawyers are directly provided with court schedules, reducing expensive down time. Confidentiality is another benefit: the 24-hour information system assures rapid response with absolute user confidentiality.

One example deals with the status of child support payments--an application called ClerkAlert.

"Now I call the clerk's office at my convenience, and within 24 hours I get a friendly call back with the requested information. It's a great improvement," says Kimberly Crotteau, a resident in Lexington County who uses the application. "Before this new system, I would have to call during limited hours and be placed on hold for extended periods of time."

ClerkAlert averages 1,600 calls per month.

Sophia Cornwall, the staff member assigned to handle those calls, agrees: "I have both inquiries and answers in hand when I return calls. This reduces time on the telephone and ultimately means that our staff can accomplish more in less time."

Applications can be custom designed. All the applications run on Octel Communication's Aspen voice processing system. Dedicated phone lines are routed through Southern Bell's central office and accessed through any touchtone telephone in the world.

Other information services have been designed to provide current docket and repetitive information to litigants, witnesses, lawyers and jurors without involving valuable court personnel time. Departments that can be accessed through the system include Family Court, Civil Court and Criminal Court.

"This voice processing application is fast becoming our communication vehicle of choice," says Comerford.

"I know of no management tool that can equal its performance record," says James R. Metts, Sheriff of Lexington County, S.C., for more than 20 years. Sheriff Metts has found through experience that the system saves his deputies many hours of unproductive time each week. This allows them to focus on the more critical aspects of their job and at the same time save taxpayers' money.

"Because of speed and the confidential nature of the application, important communications have all but replaced written memos in my department. Messages can be sent to designated groups of my deputies at the touch of a finger," says Metts.

Included in the applications designed for and utilized by Sheriff Metts are: JailBook, through which attorneys, bail bondsmen and families can find out amounts of bail without calling corrections personnel; Sheriff Direct, by which citizens can leave confidential complaints which are acted on immediately; and Lexington Most Wanted, which lists outstanding warrants.

Metts' deputies use these specially designed applications to communicate not only with each other, but also with informants, other law enforcement officers and lawyers.

"There is no more telephone tag," Metts says. "The system has been designed to allow more efficient use of personnel and better use of taxpayers' money."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:LegalMail
Author:Warner, Jan
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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