The Supreme Court of Texas has made eFiling mandatory for civil cases in district courts, statutory probate courts, statutory county courts and constitutional county courts beginning January 2014. Starting with courts whose population numbers 500,000 or more, eFiling has now reached courts with populations of 100,000 to 199,999, raising the number of mandated counties by 17. Therefore, courts and law firms alike are transitioning from the traditional way of filing to submitting civil pleadings and other pertinent document online. This means no more filing of physical documents with the court clerk. Based on the schedule released by eFileTexas, the eFiling system being implemented in the state of Texas, all counties would be under the system by July 2016.
eFiling, also known as electronic court filing or ECF is a process of transmitting legal documents through an automated system from an attorney to court, from an attorney to another attorney or from court to an attorney. Born out of issues of time and space, eFiling is the migration of court records from paper to electronic format. It is geared towards organizing and managing court files to minimize filing errors, loss, defacement or even theft. Thus there is less stress from having to manage paper records which would usually take at least five working days on an average to file accordingly.
Electronic filing (eFiling): the way to go
Aside from the reduction of office clutter, the new system will also guarantee the following:
- Availability : Now court files and documents can be viewed from different locations at the same time. Unlike with the paper system when there is only one copy; there would be no more waiting, and no competition as to who gets to access it first.
- Protection from loss : With proper indexing, electronic records are not subject to misfiling or loss, as paper documents are wont to be.
- A reliable back up : A properly-designed system of electronic files has one back-up copy, at the least. Paper file documents come only with one copy – the original.
- Time saving : Paper documents take time to file – clerks have to put them in order, only to be located again, retrieved, checked-out and delivered when the court calls for them. Once done, physical documents need to be returned, checked-in and placed back on shelves. None of these manual tasks are required in the use of the eFiling system. Anyone who has access to the records can view them immediately.
- Security : Electronic case records are less prone to altering, tampering and interception, unlike paper records that pass through different channels before reaching the official pile.
- Ease of delivery : Besides security, the delivery of electronic records are easier and less expensive than that of physical paper documents, in spite of possible technological glitches like network downtime and power outages. One can never be too sure that courier service providers and their messengers can be trusted with documents containing sensitive information.
- Technological advancement indicator :Although previously viewed as a hindrance due to the inexperience of dealing with all things electronic, the keeping of electronic records has been regarded as a necessity by the courts. The benefit of using this new technology far outweighs whatever inhibitions the traditional court has had for the system.
eFiling service providers
According to Nathan Hecht, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, “eFiling promotes the efficient and uniform administration of justice. In the 21st century, we no longer can rely on an 18th or 19th century vision for our systems. eFiling will revolutionize our courts for the better”. As such, eFileTexas has teamed up with various eFiling Service Providers or EFSPs. The Office of Court Administration has outlined the requirements for EFSPs to be certified and be recognized as valuable agents in the transition of the Court of Texas from traditional paper document filing to eFiling. Currently, there are eleven EFSPs that firms and individual lawyers can choose from. However, this EFSP gives only basic eFiling and e-service functionality, so law firms and individuals alike require a service provider that has value-added features to suit their needs.
US Legal PRO
US Legal PRO is one of the top eFiling service providers in the state of Texas, with 55 participating counties and counting, with more firms being added to it as the entire state joins in on the electronic filing transition. Based in Dallas, TX, US Legal PRO is composed of a team of IT experts, subject matters experts and legal professionals. Offering a wide range of services from eFiling to organizing firm documents, US Legal PRO works with the aim of providing law firms with all their filing needs. Developed by “attorneys for attorneys”, this EFSP functions with the thrust of making life easier for attorneys. As an aid in law firm practice management, US Legal PRO enables the following:
- Organizing firm data
- Organizing case data
- Reducing malpractice claims
- Increasing case load
- Conflicts Analysis
- Processing of clients payment
- Integration QuickBooks
- Labeling of Automatic Exhibits
Other than helping firms with eFiling and organizing their data, US Legal PRO also allows for advanced collaboration. This means that attorneys can share and exchange data with other attorneys, be they from the same firm or from another law firm. Sharing documents with clients is also made possible through this EFSP’s collaboration features. Another one of its main functions include the creation of team templates that lets attorneys share data with the same group, keeping members updated with developments regarding the case while keeping lines of communication open. On top of this, US Legal PRO has a top-notch security system that includes protection of data through encryption under the 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard and the backing-up of information in multiple locations and servers, therefore allowing the system to function even through glitches.
Clearly, US legal PRO has made a big name in the legal sector by bringing technology into the judicial system, technology that has allowed their same team of experts to give service to companies such as Boeing, NASA, Google and Motorola by electronically managing data over 30 years now. At the heart of US Legal PRO lies the aim to take care of all the organization and data needs of law firms so lawyers can focus on the more important aspects of their job.