Hassles: Transforming Court Services

When it comes to court services and legal services, there is a huge gap between what customers really want and what they settle for. Those gaps between what people really want and what they settle for represent opportunities for new products.

In Demand Adrian Slywotzky writes that each hassle (a needless step) is a problem and that answers to problems represent possible business ideas. As it currently stands, using court services requires overcoming many hassles. And, like the hassles associated with buying books in stores, the Internet has made many of the steps associated with using court services unnecessary. For example, let’s take the simple goal of starting a lawsuit. To start a lawsuit, a person needs to first determine what level of court to be in, then they need to find the correct court forms, then need to draft their claim (making sure to plead the particular facts making out the cause of action), and lastly they need to issue and serve the claim. I have listed five steps. Each step can be broken down into more steps.

Some might argue that it should be like this, that barriers deter frivolous lawsuits, that litigation should be discouraged, that it should not be as easy as online shopping, where at a click at a button you can order anything to anyone.

So far court services and legal services have been protected by the monopoly borders. Adrian states that our decisions are ruled by inertia, sloth, skepticism, habit, and indifference. But when a business closes the gap between what people really want and the services that they settle for, then it is out with the old and in with the new.

Somewhere, someone is engineering the new reality. There is no reason that “cutting and pasting” should be the most sophisticated process for drafting routine documents. There is no reason why people can’t go to an easy to use court website, answer some questions, and have a routine pleading populated. And then press enter to have that pleading issued and entered.

Court processes should not be some convoluted, mystical process. It is time to break down the gates propped up by hassles.


  1. Amen! Given the state’s monopoly on coercive adjudication, it is easy to doubt that anyone in power has the incentive to systematically eliminate civil justice hassles. However the launch of BC’s online Civil Resolution Tribunal, and the user-centric design process that created it, has renewed my optimism re public sector justice system innovation.

  2. Amen! The state’s monopoly and the lack of profit incentive for hassle-eliminating court reforms are reasons to be pessimistic. However I think BC’s new online Civil Resolution Tribunal, and the user-centric development process that produced it, are reasons for optimism about the potential for public sector justice system innovation.

  3. I second Noel’s Amen!

    And when the would-be litigant in need can choose a court and generate the pleadings with the help of a user-friendly electronic agent, I will add a Hallelujah.

  4. Heather, when you posted this I had been working on a post for my own blog about advice for companies being applied to the legal system. Rather than post a detailed response here, I finished up that post.

    The short version is that systems are not companies, and change formulas from companies will not work, and may be destructive, when applied in systems without first considering whether they fit the context or solve the problems that really exist (vs the ones that appear to exist). The long (very long) version is now on my blog at ctjester.blogspot.ca. An earlier post there (Ruminations on judicial error) may also be of interest on the subject of system change.