Sunday, December 2, 2007

Six Tips on How to eFile Statewide in California

Some attorneys in California are filing all of their court papers from their laptops. I’ve heard critics with questions about this even being possible. My own experience shows that it is possible. Here are my six tips for filing online with every county in the state of California. Keep in mind, I’m CEO for an online filing company. I have a bias, but I don’t mind saying what I like about other services.

1) Instead of trying to file through multiple court websites use a single vendor. These vendors cover courts across California. Some online vendors like Lawdex and OneLegal handle them all. Others like LexisNexis are on their way to directly handling most.

2) What can you expect? You’ll log on, fill out an online form, attach your documents, include credit card info, and press send. Once it’s filed you’ll receive back the date-stamped copy.

3) End-to-end electronic filing has arrived for only a few counties in California. So how do these companies deliver statewide? After you press send, your filing arrives with a document runner at an accredited attorney service firm. The runner prints your filing and walks it to court. At our operation we call this last-mile filing or online filing. Some lawyers call a variation of it sneaker net. Once filed, the runner scans the date-stamped copy to post an image for you online. You’ll also receive the original by mail.

4) So how is payment arranged? You’ll pay a service fee for the each job (plus any court fees) by credit card. A good rule of thumb is that the online filing shouldn’t cost you much more than you’d pay today for a one-off court filing using a decent runner service. In California this cost hovers around $50.00. A 10% fee is typically added for advancing court fees. The court runner pays the court directly.

5) How about deadlines? Same-day filing online is available statewide. I’ve seen last-mile filings regularly filed within an hour. But I’d recommend sending it by noon. Any later than that and I’d recommend contacting your runner directly to confirm that they can meet your deadline. Also, stay alert to the fact that same-day service is not common with all providers in all counties.

6) How about service of process? You can initiate service of process and court filing together from the same website. Like online filing, your serve arrives with an accredited process server. They print it, serve it in-person, and send you back the proof of service. I’ve heard complaints that this essentially means we’ve entered a brave new world of jurisprudence in which lawyers can just go ahead and sue people over the internet.

Well . . . that’s true.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blawg Mission Statement / getting a handle on court filing

My business partner and I started Lawdex back in an old adobe carriage house in Tucson, Arizona back in 1999. At the time it looked like court eFiling was around the corner.

It wasn't.

So we put our website on auto-respond. It wasn't until 2004 that things changed enough for us to start putting real energy back into the operation. We honed our business plan, brought in angel investors, developed our IP stack, filed with the US Patent Office, and eventually went live with electronic court filing in California. Later, we moved our primary garage to San Francisco. Our site now delivers legal documents over the web coast to coast. Not everyone would agree this is a good thing, but in the process we've essentially made it possible to initiate a lawsuit over a desktop computer or a crackberry.

Over this period I've gained a weird kind of expertise with the electronic exchange of legal documents. But no matter what the size of our firm (and for now it’s still pretty small), I’ll continue to think of myself as a garage CEO. Also, I continue to meet an array of Lawyers, Geeks, and Angels. I'd like this blawg to serve two purposes: 1) to answer how-to questions about online legal services like electronic filing (not legal advice, I’m not a lawyer) and 2) I’d like it to function as an ongoing chronicle of life in a West Coast start-up.