Clarksdale Saves Time (and Money) With New Court System
When Cathy Clark, city clerk for Clarksdale, Mississippi, decided the city’s court management system needed updating, she knew whom to ask. Several times a year Clark attends court clerk meetings, where professionals share insights. It was at such a meeting that she surveyed software vendors, discussing options with her peers.
“I set up appointments for two vendors to give us a demonstration,” said Clark. Syscon, recommended by other clerks, was one of the two. When Clark met with Michael, her Syscon representative, he suggested she visit Gulfport’s court, where Syscon was already in operation.
By that time, Clark was leaning toward the second vendor’s package, since it was being adopted by the city’s police department. But what she saw and heard in Gulfport changed her mind.
“The court clerk down there really praised Syscon. I was just amazed with it. It looked fantastic, with very up-to-date technology.”
So the decision was made, financing established, and Syscon personnel went to work. “They came in and sat down with us and looked at our system that we had and watched us – they did that for three or four days. They went to court and watched and evaluated. They looked at the reports we submitted on a weekly basis, and we went over what we did monthly, too. The whole time they kept saying, ‘We can handle that. We have the means to do that.’ And those means turned out to be better and easier for us.”
It was important to Clark that Syscon personnel tailor their programs to Clarksdale’s needs. But they also tailored their training techniques, Clark said.
“The training went real smoothly. Two trainers came in, and they were super, super nice and very, very patient. Some clerks are old school and don’t like to change. But they were patient with everyone and worked with us until everyone understood what was going on. They made sure before they left that everyone understood the system.”
Meanwhile, things weren’t going so well in the police department. Although Clark was in constant contact with Syscon (“We can call them all day long, every day, and they always answer the phone and are quick to give us an answer.”), the police department’s vendor was unavailable.
“We have had a lot of problems with that system downstairs,” said Clark of the software she almost purchased. “I thought that was the one I wanted at first. But I’m so glad we didn’t go with them. I would have been very, very upset.”
Clark kept the city’s old system, just in case. “But we never even had to use the old system,” she said. “And we had no unexpected bills. We went live January, 2012 and we get updates all the time, but they don’t affect anything we’re doing. They do those after hours. And we haven’t been down at all.”
Now Clarksdale’s court is running more smoothly than ever. The judge can access histories on his laptop and insert notes while still in court, avoiding the inaccuracies of later-transcribed comments. Clerks work off laptops, too.
“Court goes a lot quicker,” said Clark. “In the past we could be there until 9:00 at night. Now we get out between 7:00 and 7:30. We don’t have to pay as much overtime, and the people who have to come through the court don’t have to wait as long.”
Clark has joined the ranks of Syscon advocates at court clerk gatherings. “It’s a great system, a great program. It meets all our expectations and our needs. The people are the best, because they are there to help you and do anything they can. You just don’t find that very often. You worry that once you get the system in, are they done with me? But Michael still comes by and makes sure we don’t have any problems. He doesn’t have to do that, but he does.”
Clark hopes to now serve the same role as her Gulfport colleague, demonstrating how Syscon works in this northwestern Mississippi county seat. “All I can say is, I highly recommend Syscon.”
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