Monday, August 24, 2015

What's the Point of E-Filing if No One Uses It?

From the pages of the New York Post today comes another story about the inefficiencies of the legal industry and the continued use of paper when electronic options are available. In this case, it is the city law department that is claiming that the use of electronic filing in cases is not "compatible" with the organizational structure of the law division. The result is that the city has used a process server and paid $1.238 million over the past five years.

Also used in their defense, the law department is attempting to shift part of the blame back on the court system and the requirements that some (not all) judges have that a "working copy" also be filed with the Court, even in electronic filing cases. The article concludes that at some point, the state or administrative judge will force them to "get with the times", but questions why they can't be proactive on this issue.

The Federal Courts began e-filing in 2001, beginning in bankruptcy courts and then rolling the system out to the district courts and the appeals courts. With that system, it is easy to manage your cases and have access to your documents electronically.  New York has been slowly expanding its e-filing system and cases, but still retains certain types of cases that are not able to be e-filed. Instead of a system wide implementation, the e-filing is different from county to county as to what cases are e-filed and what their individual procedures are. This can cause a bit of a headache when you are e-filing to a case in a county for the first time and have to check to see their individual policies.

From their end, the judges I have spoken to about e-filing all have the same complaint: the infrastructure they are provided with is not able to give them the support they need to go to a fully electronic docket of cases.

But regardless of the hassle, the e-filing system does speed up the litigation process by allowing the fast filing and transmission of documents to the Court and opposing counsel. Opting out of the system, as the law department apparently does, hinders the ability for lawyers and litigants to take advantage of the advancing technologies. Rather than show up with suitcases full of documents, you can show up with a tablet or computer and be able to efficiently present your case and represent your client.

Hopefully it is only a matter of time until the Courts fully implement e-filing for all cases.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sometimes All You Need is a Key

With all the technology that is available today, sometimes it is easy to forget that life wasn't always so connected. Despite all the different ways to connect, I'm locked out of my office for the most basic of reasons: I left my keys in my office.

It's been a busy week of upgrading technology and systems to get ready for September's crush of cases. With all this new technology to assist with our cases, it is something as simple as turning the key in a lock that has thrown it all for a loop. I have friends who have those fancy electronic locks that you can open with your fingerprint or your iphone. If I had one of those, I wouldn't be in this mess.

Just like any other bit of technology, those smart locks just seem like something else to be hacked. Consumer Reports even thinks they might give you a false sense of security. In fact, some nefarious person in your hallway, trying to find a way to gain access to your home with nothing more than a computer and some bad intent could be just around the corner.

Of course, that's not to say that the person in your hallways couldn't also just use a lock pick or some other tactic to pick your physical lock and break into your home. But as I stare at the lock and the keyhole, I wonder if there isn't a better way to solve this problem in the future (besides not being aloof enough to leave my keys in my office). I'm sure there's a lesson in this somewhere...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Not So Lazy Days of Summer

It seems like almost everyone I deal with is on vacation, but they are making their assistants do a lot of work in their absences. The Courts seem quiet, gearing up for a post-Labor Day rush that seems to arrive each year.

For my part, my inbox has been filled up with Orders that have been long neglected, judgments that need to be entered and other documents that need to be served. But the calls and messages come from assistants, not the attorneys. The attorneys seem to have all left for parts unknown, leaving a pile of tasks for their office to complete while they are gone.

These neglected piles of documents have suddenly become important and I am magically expected to jump up and immediately handle these long neglected matters of utter importance (longest neglect: 2+ years) as if it was somehow my fault that they had been neglected. The urgency ignores the scores of letters and other documents that I have sent in the interim, trying to get these things resolved so that they wouldn’t pile up for an end of the summer tsunami of work.

So now my calendar is suddenly filled, dissolutions of companies, dissolutions of marriages and incorporations of companies. I’m not sure how they are all inter-related, but they all are somehow.

It’s like a spider-web, but the spiders left for vacation and left their assistants to tend to the web.