The Digital Bridge: Linking courts and law firms electronically and the evolution of the File & Serve judicial solution

The Digital Bridge: Linking courts and law firms electronically and the evolution of the File & Serve judicial solution

Technology is transforming the courts.

It has been said that technology has made the world a smaller place to live. That paradigm applies to the relationship between courts and law firms as well. Recent advances have created the opportunity to literally construct a digital bridge between attorneys and the courthouse.

Technology continues to find its way into every corner of the judicial system. In courtrooms, judges sit with laptop computers at the bench, attorneys use presentation software to support their arguments, and juries view video screens from the jury box.1 Electronic court records are quickly replacing the overflowing boxes of paper that once filled file rooms. Great efforts are also underway to make sure electronic records can be exchanged between various court and law enforcement systems.

At the same time, the vast majority of courts in the United States and around the world still rely on paper. Paper remains the primary method for exchanging information between litigants and the courts. The information contained in those documents is locked in the static life of a piece of paper. Some courts have attempted to generate electronic records by scanning paper documents. But these electronic court records are created-or more accurately re-created by hand in the Clerk's Office. Attorneys draft their pleadings and motions on their computer, print them out on paper, and then deliver them physically to the court. Clerks then scan those paper documents to create an electronic copy, generally with worse image quality than the original. It is a destructively manual process that is inefficient and produces an electronic record of limited use.

Crossing the Digital Bridge.

Applying the same basic principles that have made online banking so successful, an integrated e-filing (electronic filing) solution largely eliminates much of the physical delivery and manual process needed to "convert" paper to electronic images. With online banking, when you make an account transfer or pay a bill online, the bank doesn't manually re-enter all that data on the other end-it is taken directly from your computer at the point of transaction. E-filing operates essentially the same way.