When will the legal industry completely adopt electronic means to File and Serve documents? Some courts have implemented Electronic File Management Systems that accept E-Filing, however, there are more courts remaining to follow the lead. Some attorneys authorize the use of E-Service for exchanging documents involving multiple parties, but the majority of attorneys have yet to accept this new form of service among counsel. It seems the legal industry is reluctant to change.
In order to fully understand the benefits of E-Filing & E-Service, it is imperative to recognize the problems with the outdated methods. Let’s start with court filings, the main issue with physically filing documents with the court is the amount of time it takes to complete the task. According to the Judicial Council of California, there were 6.2 million cases filed statewide in the Superior Courts in 2016. Imagine the amount of time it would take for couriers to physically file these documents and the amount of employees at the courts needed to manage these filings. The issue of time then turns into a massive cost that the state doesn’t have funding for. There is a reason why the Federal Courts require all filings to be submitted electronically, because it is more EFFICIENT! State filings should be no different.
Similar issues from above exist among attorneys and law firms. Picture the amount of time it takes to copy and serve voluminous documents let alone to multiple parties if needed. One can argue that the use of e-mail, fax, or cloud storage will increase the rate of exchanging documents. However, the downside to e-mail and fax is not secure and verification of receipt is always uncertain. Unfortunately, more often than not, counsel can deny ever being served on time or the e-mail/fax won’t go through for a number of reasons, such as file size or too many documents.
There are other means of transferring files via cloud storage systems, such as DropBox or MimeCast. BUT, these systems do not provide industry standard structures specifically made for litigation. Documents need to be date and time stamped, and the files need to be organized in industry standard folders for ease of access. What if file cabinets didn’t have specific folders for specific files? That is what you call a complete disaster, especially because litigation involves the exchange of numerous documents, especially during the discovery phases.
Case Management and electronic service of documents should not be left to just any online provider, it should be designated to professionals who specialize in litigation management. Would you trust your valuables with some random storage facility? Hopefully NOT! Please do your due diligence before authorizing any form of Filing and Serving for your next case. We can start by improving efficiency one case at a time.