As Published in The Recorder, October 6, 2014
by Steven J. Reynolds and Jack Trott, Esq., File & ServeXpress
California courts are increasingly implementing e-Filing to improve document exchange efficiency.
E-Filing has been used throughout the country for more than 23 years, but it has not been fully embraced by every firm or court. However, with the increasing cost of paper filing, labor, etc., more and more courts are adopting e-Filing as a solution. In turn, law firms seeking to enhance productivity and reduce costs are increasingly looking to e-Filing for immediate impact.
Even though technological advances have the potential for productivity increases, labor savings and ROI gains, legal professionals have typically hesitated to adopt them, whether out of fear (of change, of trying to learn new processes, of losing a job to a computer) or deeply entrenched habits. However, once law firms do, they usually benefit considerably.
Research becomes more efficient. Attorneys gain more time and can generate more billable hours. Librarians, once fearful of losing their jobs to advancing technology, become information managers gaining more job security in the process. Clients benefit too; technology helps their firms save them money.
Because of economic conditions over the last several years, many firms have reduced operating expenses by decreasing staff size. Given the amount of litigation in our society, this has drastically reduced the ability of many law firms to deal with the increased workloads unless they embrace the latest technological advancement.
So what’s the latest technological change that promises benefits to the legal industry? E-Filing.
Firms using e-Filing report many advantages, including:
-More control over filing and service delivery and management. E-Filing mitigates the inherent potential for risk when document filing and serving are done manually.
-A distinct cost savings over traditional filing methods. The average cost for e-Filing and e-Serving a document can be as little as $15 per transaction; when you add in the cost of a courier and overhead involved in copying and mailing documents, the savings of e-Filing can be significant.
-Drastic reduction of staff time needed for filing documents; resultant cost savings can be substantial.
-Decreased dependence on couriers; documents can be served and delivered to multiple parties at the push of a button 24 hours a day.
To save time and money, some firms fax their documents to a service provider that subsequently hand delivers them to courts. Contrary to what some practitioners believe, this is not e-Filing. This is a risky practice where critical document delivery is entrusted to a third party. E-Filing eliminates dependence on this legacy technology and delivery system.
Along with e-Filing comes e-Service. Many legal professionals mistakenly think that e-mail and e-Service are interchangeable. In fact, e-mail is truly not a suitable tool for serving opposing counsel and co-counsel because it has significant limitations that put your firm at risk, including:
-No verifiable proof of delivery.
-Spam filters or large attachments can block or delay delivery.
-E-mail is an insecure message transmission medium.
-Risk of sending sensitive, confidential information to the wrong recipients.
-E-mail is not designed to be an effective, secure storage tool.
E-Filing and e-Service overcome the limitations of using e-mail as a document filing tool.
Attorneys put themselves and their clients at risk when they ignore technology advances. Comment 8 to Rule 1.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct states “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology (emphasis added), engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.”
Documents e-Filed in many California courts are accessible through a secure, online repository at no charge to the parties involved in the litigation. Superior e-Filing providers offer 24/7/365 training and support, while training sessions are included at no extra charge to the firm. Many of these training sessions qualify for MCLE credit through the California State Bar.
Embracing the power of e-Filing technology enables lawyers to practice law more efficiently and provide clients with better service and value. The firm, regardless of size, can benefit from e-Filing implementation, as can clients. It lowers overhead and operating expenses. Staff is freed up to work on additional cases, boosting firm productivity and profitability.