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How Paperless Courts Serve the Public Better than Courts that Don’t

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

A traditional “brick-and-mortar” courthouse is becoming a thing of the past. We don’t mean that courthouses will cease to exist at some point, rather we posit that not all functions, such as filing, are required to only take place at that location.

That’s where the magic of the paperless clerk’s office takes place: e-filing!

Over the next few sections we are going to take a closer look at how a company, such as First Legal, could change the way that your court operates. This will simultaneously serve the public better and be on trend with your expectations as a public service.

E-Filing Makes Courts More Accessible to the Public

In this day and age, one could argue that physically having to appear at a courthouse to file a document could be considered a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Albeit, a bit far reaching.

However, if you consider that 20% Americans are protected by the ADA, it’s difficult to argue that a disabled person should be expected to appear at the courthouse any time it snaps its fingers. That’s basically the definition of unreasonable public policy.

E-Filing Allows More Time for Attorneys and Pro Se Litigants to Respond

Let’s keep it real: attorneys procrastinate, and sometimes, for good reason, too. Is it really the spirit of the law that people are required to rush a response to the clerk’s office before the timer goes off?

That’s a highly debatable topic.

E-Filing extends the deadline from 4 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. on any given business day. Eight bonus hours can make a world of difference to lawyers, who have been waiting for their clients to respond for twenty or thirty days. Arguably, everyone is given more time to file a document that could change the entire course of their life.

E-Filing Increases Compliance and Reduces Mistakes

How many times have you heard of an attorney and a clerk arguing over what was filed where, for how much, and when?

We’re sure that if you never hear it again, it will be too soon.

This is exactly the kind of problem that e-filing in the court clerk’s office and judge’s chambers can prevent. Every document that was filed online records the activity of the user that entered it while creating a programmed date-stamp that cannot be altered or argued with by another individual. In short, whichever result is displayed is the action that was taken by either side.

E-Filing Makes Documents Available to the Right People

While piggybacking off the last reason, e-filing in the courthouse makes a lot of sense. No longer are judges, attorneys, parties, reporters, and other essential staff related to those positions bound by the disadvantage of physically being required to be somewhere.

For example, should a personal injury attorney cut his or her vacation in Hawaii short because he needs to file something that he or she forgot to file before leaving?

No, that’s crazy, and it’s probably a contributing factor to the depression experienced by people in the legal profession (directly or indirectly). Instead, individuals can file and retrieve documents any time they need to do so.

E-Filing Is Environmentally Friendly

This one is a bit obvious, but the legal profession is one of the biggest paper pits in the United States. Think about how many trees and wildlife we could preserve by going paperless.

One court in Missouri further expanded the savings beyond nature resource and has claimed that:

a)   One-half hour per arrest is saved

b)   45 minutes per criminal complaint is reduced

c)   A 95,000 staff hours reduction

d)   Total dollars saved equals $1.9 million

One. Point. Nine. Million. We don’t know if your court could use that kind of savings, but we are guessing it could. Not to mention, tax papers will definitely see an advantage as well.

Final Thoughts and Considerations Regarding Paperless Courts

While it is not easy to switch from paper to electronic means of communication, working with an experienced company, like First Legal, can ensure that the process will go smoothly and seamlessly at a fraction of the cost than if you go it alone. Plus, you will need someone who understands that metadata requirements and legal compliance programs of a firm that knows what they are doing.