Originally published July 5, 2016. Updated October 25, 2016.
The days of filing paper documents at courthouses in California are numbered. That’s because electronic court filing, the uploading, and submission of documents to a court in electronic form, is rapidly becoming the new standard.
That’s because courts across California are clambering to take advantage of the efficiencies eFiling offers and from which the federal courts and some state court systems, such as that in Texas, are already benefiting.
Electronic filing is currently available in 12 superior courts in California (Fresno, Kern, Merced, Monterey, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Stanislaus), with eFiling mandated in some or all civil case types in eight.
In total, 35 (out of 58) superior courts in California, including many of the largest courts in the state, have active electronic filing programs underway. Many counties, including Los Angeles and some smaller counties in the north of the state, will begin asking lawyers to file electronically during 2017.
Note: These eFiling implementations are all planned, but the actual date of may vary because of local court considerations.
Law firms that act now and integrate eFiling and eService into their standard case management processes will be prepared — those that wait may be left scrambling to catch up.
Given that, in all likelihood, most courts in California, including almost all of the largest, will require eFiling within the next two years, how can you ensure that your firm will be ready?
Best practices for preparing for eFiling
It’s important to start getting your office ready, regarding technology, training, and internal processes sooner rather than later. Some courts choose very rapid implementation timetables that risk some firms being caught off guard. To minimize that chance, follow these six simple guidelines.
Make sure you’re on your local court’s mailing list. Better still, sign up for alerts from a statewide filing service that has a team of experts working on-the-ground with the courts. You can register for One Legal updates here.
GET THE RIGHT TOOLS IN PLACE
To be fully prepared for eFiling requires some investment in the right tools. Most importantly, you’ll need to be able to scan exhibits at a reasonable quality (check out our guide to choosing the right scanner for your office) and to make simple edits to PDFs (see our review of the top five PDF software packages).
LOOK OUT FOR TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES AND TRAIN THE ENTIRE STAFF
Your court will likely offer some training opportunities, but look out for webinars from filing service providers like One Legal that can be taken in your own time. It’s helpful for everyone in the firm, including attorneys, to take at least some training. Consider signing up for these One Legal webinars:
A one-hour, MCLE accredited, introduction to how eFiling works in California and the main rules and statutes of which you’ll need to be aware. Sign up now>>
Successful eFiling often requires preparing your documents in specific ways, such as adding bookmarks and applying optical character recognition. This hour long course covers all of the main PDF skills you’ll need to succeed. Sign up now>>
KNOW THE RULES AND START OPTIMIZING YOUR FILINGS
The rules for the presentation of eFilings are a little different to those applying to physical filings. Furthermore, you’ll want to keep in mind that your filing may be read on a small screen, such as an iPad. Get started by learning what constitutes a “court-friendly” electronic filing. It’s also worth reviewing your firm’s style and typography rules to ensure you’re in line with best practice.
INVOLVE YOUR ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT
In order to recover the costs of implementing eFiling systems, the courts are adding a number of additional fees, in addition to statutory filing fees. Furthermore, depending on your service provider, some payment methods may be restricted. You’ll want to involve your accounting department early in decision-making so that you can choose a service that meets your needs (One Legal, for instance, advances all fees and sends one itemized invoice per transaction that you can pay using your preferred method).
BEGIN “EFILING” AS SOON AS POSSIBLE WITH A COMPREHENSIVE EFSP
You can begin getting used to uploading and sending filings online immediately by choosing an eFiling service with statewide coverage. One Legal, for instance, files in all 58 counties of California via the same, simple workflow. We eFile where it’s available and, for physical courts, have a team of document specialists who deliver your filing on your behalf.
Start preparing for eFiling today. Download our quick eFiling cheat sheet for an overview: