Morris Massel spent 17 years as a restructuring/bankruptcy lawyer at Willkie Farr & Gallagher and at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. In that role, the New York University School of Law grad spent a lot of time watching judges struggle to control people who were appearing at court conferences via a phone.
“Every few calls, a lawyer would press hold on their phone and treat the entire courtroom and phone line to hold music,” or call from a noisy location, said Massel.
“The judges couldn’t do anything to fix the problem, and you should have seen their reactions. Their job is hard enough without those distractions. So, the judges would either disconnect everyone, or grin and bear it. It just didn’t work.”
Massel decided to fix it — and launched CourtSolutions to “solve the problems of control and information for telephonic appearances.”
The service includes the “Hearing Dashboard — judges have complete and instant control over telephonic hearings through a visual interface, which also provides judges and lawyers with immediate and constantly updated information, such as who is on the phone, who is speaking and who wants to speak,” said New York-based Massel, 44.
Using the dashboard, the court “knows who is speaking; can mute or drop participants; can see who wants to be recognized; and can sidebar with any group of participants. CourtSolutions “reduces the administrative burden of setting up calls, and there are no costs, contracts or installations for the courts,” the company states on its website.
The lawyers and participants know who is speaking, and they can raise their hand to be recognized. The users can control their participation in the hearing “and interact with the court as if they were there.” Users can call from any phone, saving travel time and costs.
There is no fee for the judges or the courts. The meeting participants pay a flat fee of $70 per call.
On Aug. 5, 2015, Christine Gravelle, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the District of New Jersey, was the first judge to use CourtSolutions. Today, CourtSolutions is being used in nine bankruptcy courts in seven states.
CourtSolutions now has five employees, and is growing, said Massel. He does have a “formidable” competitor: CourtCall, launched in the mid-1990s. But Massel cites his new technology and “consumer comfort with online services to streamline the entire process — from making and approving reservations to actually making an appearance.”
Going forward, Massel hopes that CourtSolutions will become known as the most innovative and reliable service provider to the courts. “For us to succeed, we’ll need to continue to evolve rapidly, incorporate newer technologies into our platform and listen very, very carefully to our customers.”