Executive Summary - Registry Branch Services

March 2007

Background

  • Staff at the Supreme Court of Canada's (SCC) Office of the Registrar have recently undertaken a performance measurement process designed to ensure clients receive excellent service within an environment of continuous improvement.
  • To this end, the Office of the Registrar engaged Phase 5 to conduct an on-line client satisfaction survey of recent Registry Branch clients. It is our understanding that this is a benchmark survey that will be used to track performance over time.

Research Objectives

  • The specific research objectives included:
    • To determine the level of client (i.e. counsel, agents and unrepresented litigants) satisfaction with various Registry Branch services and information, including assessment of the scope, quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the services and information provided.
    • To identify priority areas for improvement.
    • To establish a baseline measure and process for the conduct of an on-going on-line client satisfaction survey.

Approach

  • The overall approach to the work entailed the conduct of an on-line survey with 178 counsel, agents and Unrepresented litigants who appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada in 2006.
    • Client lists were provided to Phase 5 by the SCC. The list contained 299 counsel, agents and unrepresented litigants who had appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada in 2006. It is our understanding that this list included virtually all who fell into this category.
    • A letter from the Office of the Registrar was sent to all potential respondents to introduce the study.
    • This was followed by an email invitation from Phase 5 to all 299 potential respondents. This provided further information related to the research, a link to the survey as well as a password to ensure each participant participated only once.
    • Two reminder emails were sent to encourage response.
    • Responses were collected between February 1st and February 23rd, 2007.
    • Rate of completion was 60%.

Key Findings

Respondent Profile and Nature of Interaction with the Registry Branch

  • Registry Branch clients who answered the survey tend to:
    • have practiced law for more than 20 years (60%)
    • work for a private sector law firm (64%) or a provincial / municipal government (23%)
    • fall in the age range of 50 years or older (54%)
    • have the primary role as Counsel for most cases where they appeared before the SCC (89%)
    • have been involved in filing an application for leave to appeal two or more times (75%) – 26% were involved more than 10 times
    • have been involved in an appeal to the SCC two or more times (77%) – 25% were involved more than 10 times
  • Information related to appeals was the most commonly accessed service area by respondents (93%), followed by information related to applications for leave to appeal (85%), information about Court decisions (61%), information about motions (55%) and access to documents from the Court Records Office (30%).
  • The most commonly cited use for in-person counter services was to sign-in for hearings (88%). This was followed by, to a much lesser extent, filing documents (26%), consulting documents (15%) and requesting CPAC videos (15%).

Feedback on Registry Branch Services

  • The overall feedback from clients was very positive. In fact, 3 out of 4 respondents did not simply indicate satisfaction, but stated they were "very satisfied" with the service they received from the Registry Branch and virtually all respondents (99%) were "satisfied" or "very satisfied".
  • Overall satisfaction with "core" service areas was also extremely strong. Satisfaction was slightly higher for information related to appeals, information related to applications for leave to appeal and gaining access to Court Records. Satisfaction was still high, but slightly lower for information about Court decisions and information about motions.
    • It is interesting to note that respondents from larger law firms (16+ lawyers) indicated slightly higher levels of satisfaction with services overall and with information about motions. This may imply that counsel from smaller firms may have slightly different service needs and / or expectations.
  • However, there is room for improvement for specific activities within some of the core service areas.
    • Information related to applications for leave to appeal
      • There was strong agreement among respondents that they had enough information about the process and filing deadlines and to prepare their application. However, they were less likely to agree that the rules of the SCC related to leave for appeal are complete and clear - 1in 5 respondents did not agree.
    • Information related to appeals
      • There was strong agreement among respondents that they had enough information to prepare for Court, about the court process and filing deadlines and to prepare their appeal documents. However they were less likely to agree that they SCC rules relate to appeals are clear and complete – again 1 in 5 respondents did not agree.
  • A strong majority of respondents who used the guidelines for preparing the electronic copy of a factum on appeal agreed that they were clear and complete. However, 1 in 5 did not agree with these statements.
  • Virtually all (97%) of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the in-person counter services.
  • There was also strong support for the services provided by the Courts Record Office. Over 9 in 10 agreed that the information they requested was provided in a timely manner and that they got what they asked for.

Hours of Operation

  • Three quarters of respondents indicated they were satisfied with the hours of operation. Only 4% expressed clear dissatisfaction. Of these, most were satisfied with the current start time, but suggested a 6:30 pm EST closing time.

Communication Channels

  • The phone and on-line channels are the most important for accessing the range of services offered by the Registry Branch. They were consistently cited as the top 2 communication channels used to access Registry Branch core services. In addition email ranked third in all core service areas with the exception of accessing documents from the Courts Record Office.
  • The vast majority of respondents were satisfied with the channels used to contact the Registry Branch. However, respondents were most satisfied with the less frequently used channels i.e. in-person, mail and Fax channels and the on-line channel were consistently rated lower than other channels for all core service areas.

Registry Branch Staff

  • Feedback on Registry Branch staff was extremely positive with virtually all respondents (99%) stating they were satisfied or very satisfied and three quarters stating they were "very satisfied". It is important to emphasize that when participants were asked in an open-ended question to describe the strengths of the Registry Branch all those who responded to this question (100) cited staff as the key strength of the Registry Branch. Specific qualities emphasized were:
    • courteous staff;
    • accessible / approachable / available staff;
    • knowledgeable / informative staff;
    • efficient / responsive staff; and
    • quality of information provided.
  • When rated across a range of attributes staff ranked most highly for personal qualities such as courteous, availability and responsiveness. They were also ranked very highly in terms of being able to offer service in both official languages. They were rated slightly lower across knowledge attributes and going the extra mile to make sure clients got what they wanted. In the knowledge area, participants were least likely to agree that staff were knowledgeable about questions related to procedure on a motion.

The SCC Website

  • The SCC Website was well received with over 9 in 10 respondents indicating they were satisfied or very satisfied. However, the strength of the agreement was lower than other SCC service areas.
  • Most visitors to the site are frequent or seasoned visitors. Nearly all respondents (98%) had visited the site at least twice in the past year, almost ¾ had visited over 10 times and more than half had visited more than 20 times.
  • The most commonly cited reasons for visiting the SCC Website over the past year included searching for information on a particular case in SCC Case Information (88%), searching for information about applications for leave to appeal (84%) and reviewing the hearing schedule (75%). More than half had also visited the site for Supreme Court Act, rules and / or forms, for information on the appeal process and for case summaries.
  • Respondents were most likely to agree that they can rely on the information on the SCC site. Although the ratings are still high, they are least likely to agree that information provided is complete and is at the right level of detail. In fact, more detailed and up-to-date case information (e.g. factums) was the most commonly cited suggestion for improving the SCC Website.
  • Other suggested improvements included:
    • Making it easier to access information / better search function
    • Include enhanced functionality and interactive tools e.g. videos, live feed, ability to file on-line etc.
    • Push information to clients e.g. reminders for deadlines, other pertinent information

Recommendations

Services

  • Undertake steps to improve the completeness and clarity of the rules of the SCC related to applications for leave to appeal and appeals.
  • Undertake steps to improve the completeness and clarity of the guidelines for preparing the electronic copy of a factum on appeal.
  • Continue to offer the same level of service for in-person counter services and in the Courts Record Office.

Hours of Operation

  • There does not appear to be compelling evidence to alter the current hours of operation. As use of on-line channels increases, this will likely further mitigate the need for a change.

Communication Channels

  • Take steps to ensure the most frequently used channels, particularly the on-line channel, provide the same level of service as more traditional and admittedly less complex communication channels.

Registry Branch Staff

  • Staff should be recognized for the high level of service they provide.
  • Ensure staff have the knowledge they need to address clients questions, particularly in the area of procedure on a motion.

The SCC Website

  • A high percentage of visitors are coming to the site for similar reasons. Ensure high demand and traffic areas are well designed and fully address user needs. For example, ensure information in core areas (e.g. case information) is up-to-date and at the right level of detail.
  • There is an ongoing and strong relationship with the SCC user base – they rely on the site and are frequent visitors. Strengthening this relationship can be used not only to increase user satisfaction, but to address broader corporate goals. At the outset strengthen this relationship by offering interactive and personalized services e.g. pushing requested information to clients. In the longer term consider using the on-line channel as a tool to encourage dialogue or to support consultation initiatives.
  • Enhance the functionality and range of services provided by the SCC site. Start with services that compliment core and mandated activities e.g. electronic filing. Other considerations include videos and live feed. These suggested enhancements are not surprising as those in the legal community are familiar with, and used to, sophisticated on-line legal systems.