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Attorney registration portal revamped

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portal-at-glance.gifState court officials heard the grumbling of lawyers who for the first time last year had to register, pay fees and provide contact information online.

It was confusing. Difficult to navigate. Frustrating.

Now it will be different.

“We think this will make it a lot less stressful for people,” Indiana Supreme Court spokesperson Kathryn Dolan said of the revised registration portal that will appear Aug. 1 at www.appealsclerk.in.gov.

Court officials provided a demonstration of the revised site that more than 20,000 active and inactive Indiana attorneys, judges and non-attorney judges are required to use to register and pay fees. Lawyers also can use the site to update contact information, office location and other information required by law or court rules.

When attorneys log in, they’ll see new screens that court administrators hope address some of the concerns that were raised after the site debuted last year.
 

il-portal-15col.jpg Appellate court technology director Robert Rath explains some of the changes to the redesigned Indiana Clerk of Courts web portal that attorneys will use starting Aug. 1 to register, pay fees and update required information. The modifications came after attorneys complained about the online system. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

“The desire to make it easier to use did drive us to redo the front end,” said Robert Rath, director of appellate court technology.

Court staff worked with attorneys and others in focus groups to learn what worked better and find improvements to make the system more intuitive, easier to navigate and more user-friendly.

“The key difference is the screens are rearranged and the processes are configured in a ‘wizard’ format,” Rath said. That means for each step in the registration process, prompts will appear when information is required, and users will be cued when they’ve completed various portions of registration.

For returning users, information logged previously will carry over into the new portal. “The vast majority of attorneys won’t have that many changes to make,” Rath said.

A frequent complaint about the system has been that users were uncertain when they had completed various sections of the online registration forms. Attorneys are required to submit the following information:

• Basic contact information

• Home and business addresses

• Notification settings (where they prefer to receive various email notices)

• Bar status

• Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) certification

• Surrogate attorney designation

With the new portal, an attorney logging in will see a revised “dashboard” containing links to each of the registration sections. Each link navigates to a new window with prompts for the required information. When each section is finished, a “completed” checkmark icon appears for that section on the dashboard.

The new portal will look strikingly different on Aug. 1. Division of State Court Administration web coordinator Lindsey Borschel said that when the new site launches, the home page of www.appealsclerk.in.gov will include a banner reading “It’s that time of year again,” advising users that fees are due.

The licensing fee for active attorneys is $145. Those fees pay for programs such as continuing legal education, the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, and the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program.

The home page will welcome users with a screen that asks, “What would you like to do?” and links to each of the sections where information can be updated.

“Everything they can do on the portal will be available on that screen,” Borschel said.

Chuck Dunalp, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation, is among those who worked with court administrators to refine the registration portal regarding IOLTA certification. “One of the issues before was that attorneys didn’t necessarily have to see that screen and verify everything” during registration, he said.

Another problem was outdated, incorrect or incomplete information, Dunlap said. To address those issues, the revised system will include a drop-down menu of financial institutions.

“I think we have a few systems in place that streamline it for attorneys,” Dunlap said. “We’re hoping to repopulate the data with the best information we have.”

The bar foundation oversees IOLTA proceeds that are used to fund the state’s pro bono districts. Dunlap said attorneys are required to complete IOLTA certification even if they are exempt; failing to do so constitutes an incomplete registration. The revisions to the web portal should reduce the follow-up required for attorneys who miss that step in registration.

Online registration saves hundreds of hours of duplicative work for Dunlap and court staff. In years past, Roll of Attorneys Administrator Darla Little received the 20,000 or so registration forms in the mail.

The forms included IOLTA sections that went to the bar foundation and copies were given to the Commission on Race and Gender Fairness to track responses to the optional questions of race and gender. Each section of each form had to be manually entered into databases.

“That was a time-consuming process,” Dunlap said. It also was one that allowed submission of incomplete registration forms – particularly when an attorney failed to complete the IOLTA section. The revised portal will prompt attorneys when that section or other required sections haven’t been finished.

The new site should help information stay current as well. Attorneys can visit the site to update information anytime it changes. Information such as change of address is required to be updated within 30 days of a change.

Rath said the portal also is designed with the potential of expansion to ultimately include other areas of licensing requirements such as continuing legal education. He said the attorney database “is the foundation of so much of the work we do.”

Check, please

The introduction of online registration last year required attorneys for the first time to pay fees electronically.

Rath said enough people voiced a desire to pay by check that the option will be made available on the site this year. People at larger firms who file registrations on behalf of numerous attorneys were among those who wanted to pay by check for record-keeping purposes, he said.

In another change, attorneys will no longer receive notices in the mail about registration, Little said. Those notices now will be sent by email to the email address on file with the clerk.

Letters will be mailed to newly admitted attorneys registering for the first time.

Dolan said current registration figures show 18,037 active attorneys; 2,908 inactive; and 16 on probation.•
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  1. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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