Easy e-filing: Services designed to help attorneys file documents accurately and correctly
Ten years ago, most lawyers hand-filed paper documents with courts; however, that changed over time as online document storage became increasingly common and lawyers began to transition to paperless practices. As a result, even before the pandemic, court e-filing systems were in place in many jurisdictions; some even required it.
In other words, the paperless transition was already well underway before the pandemic. Some lawyers were already taking advantage of the convenience of e-filing, although many had not yet jumped on the bandwagon. The social distancing requirements of the pandemic, however, changed the course of adoption and rapidly accelerated the e-filing trend that was already underway.
Some lawyers have resisted e-filing because the drawbacks can sometimes outweigh the benefits. E-filing is a great idea in theory. It provides an efficient and streamlined way to remotely file digital documents with the court. It also saves money by reducing paper and labor costs, and documents can be filed with the click of a button.
However, in practice, e-filing systems can be incredibly difficult to navigate. There is no state or national standard. Instead, individual courts in each jurisdiction have implemented a wide variety of different e-filing systems, and the website interfaces available to access e-filing tools are often clunky and antiquated. These user-interface barriers are off-putting, and lawyers are often reluctant to attempt to use them out of fear they’ll make a mistake and risk missing an important filing deadline.
That’s where e-filing services come in. These companies provide web-based interfaces that allow you to upload the document that needs to be filed and specify the appropriate court in which it should be filed. The e-filing service takes care of the rest and timely e-files the document for you. It’s as easy as that! So if you’re looking for a hassle-free, convenient way to e-file documents, look no further than the companies discussed below.
Before we take a look at some of the options available, however, it’s important to note that the software tools discussed in this column are cloud-based, and therefore all data will be housed on servers owned by a third party. As a result, because you’ll be entrusting your law firm’s data to a third party, your ethical obligations will require you to vet the technology provider hosting and storing your data thoroughly. This duty includes ensuring you understand how that company will handle the data; where the servers on which the data will be stored are located; who will have access to the data; and how and when it will be backed up—among other things.
Below you’ll find an overview of some of the e-filing services with the largest coverage areas. State-specific e-filing tools exist, but there are too many to cover in this article. For that reason, I’ll focus on those that provide e-filing options in more than one jurisdiction. Note that the products discussed below are not an all-inclusive list but instead are a selection of a few of the more well-known services.
First up, InfoTrack, which offers coverage in several states and integrates with many document management and law practice management systems. The InfoTrack integration means that you typically won’t have to manually enter case-related details since they will be pulled from your case management system and automatically input into the e-filing system. Using InfoTrack, you can e-file documents with courts in a number of larger jurisdictions across the country, including California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New York and Texas. The cost per document e-filed is $12.50 for California and $5 for all other jurisdictions.
Another option is File & ServeXpress, which provides e-filing services for California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Wyoming. Pricing is per transaction and varies depending on the jurisdiction and court where the document will be e-filed.
Also available is ABC Legal, which provides e-filing coverage for Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Washington (King), Washington (Yakima) and Washington, D.C. According to their website, the cost per filing is dependent on the court’s filing fees and how quickly you need the documents filed with the court.
Finally, GreenFiling offers e-filing services for California, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Texas and Utah. The company provides a three-tiered subscription pricing plan: law firm, attorney or individual. The cost of each plan is not available on the website, and once you’ve signed up for the plan for your chosen state, the cost per e-file transaction varies depending on the state and plan you’ve chosen.
As you can see, there are services available for most states. If your jurisdiction is not covered by one of the services listed above, check the court’s website, and you’ll likely find information regarding companies that provide e-filing services for that specific court. One way or another, you should be able to take advantage of the flexibility and convenience offered by e-filing documents, and you can say goodbye to the costs and challenges encountered when filing paper documents in years past.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York-based attorney, author and journalist, and she is the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, a company that offers legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com and Above the Law; has authored hundreds of articles for other publications; and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.