My blog post today isn’t directly on point with the legal topics I generally blog about, but I think it’s a post that has important relevance to the work I do and clients I serve. Let me tell you about why we need to bring e-filing to Massachusetts.
Permit me a story, that I will call “a tale of two cases.” Both cases were complex matters, requiring extensive research, writing, and preparation. In the end, though, one was far easier to get filed with the court than the other, saving my client money (and freeing my time for other important matters). What was the difference? One case was in federal court, which permits e-filing, and the other was in Massachusetts state court, which does not.
“E-filing” lets an attorney file papers with a court online. The attorney merely needs to turn his papers into a PDF (which almost all word programs allow a user to do today), upload them on the federal court website, and submit. No need to send the other side a copy of what you filed; the other attorneys and court get an automatic notification when something is filed. Same when the court issues an order or decision.
Massachusetts state courts, in contrast, still require paper filing. A lawyer needs to print a copy of what they want to file and mail or hand deliver it to the court and other side. For large lawsuits and motions, the process requires enormous amounts of paper and clerical work to get done.
E-filing is of equal benefit to all attorneys, but is especially needed for solo and small firms like myself. I don’t rely on clerical staff for my administrative needs and the extra time I spend filing papers with the court takes away valuable time from my clients. It makes legal services more expensive than they need to be. Moreover, as a proud alumnus of the nation’s top environmental law school, paper filing consumes enormous amounts of paper. The picture above is from a recent appeal I did. The required filing of seven copies of my brief and transcript amounted to several hundred printed pages and hundreds of dollars in printing costs.
E-filing has other advantages as well: it provides attorneys the convenience of working remotely and the ability to view the filings in a case without a trip to the courthouse. Research is also easier: a lawyer interested in learning about a case can do so from their computer, and not in a busy clerk’s office.
E-filing has worked wonders in federal court, and its time to bring e-filing to Massachusetts. There are several pilot projects underway on this important endeavor and here’s hoping that e-filing becomes a permanent part of the Massachusetts state court system.