Electronic court filing is a relatively new system for attorneys to file documents more easily and quickly than filing by fax, mail, or hand delivery. Using electronic court filing, attorneys can draft documents on computers but instead of printing the documents, the documents are simply uploaded along with any attachments directly to the clerk's office designated website. Using this faster method, fewer billable hours are used for filing of documents, leaving more time for attorneys, secretaries, and paralegals to work on the case.
Attorneys who wish to file documents electronically must obtain a user name and password, helping to make the system secure. All files sent through these systems are encrypted to prevent hackers from viewing personal information in documents. After using electronic court filing, the computer sending the documents will receive a message that the documents were received by the filing system. Security is very important for legal documents due to the sensitive nature of the information contained in many of them.
All documents filed with courts require the attorney's signature; with electronic court filing, the log-in information works as the attorney's signature on the document. For this reason, availability of the attorney's username and password should be very limited to prevent misuse. The log-in information can be shared with paralegals and secretaries, but the attorney should monitor the account very closely when sharing log in information. The username often remains valid even if the attorney's name changes, he or she moves to a new law firm, or the email address changes. The attorney can change personal information, such as email address and physical address, typically through the website or through the court's clerk's office.
While more and more courthouses are using and implementing e-filing systems, electronic court filing is not available everywhere. The court's website or the clerk's website will typically show the availability of such systems and the rules regarding its use. Usually, the attorney will need to register with the website to start submitting documents electronically. It is suggested that the website be consulted before drafting any documents to ensure those documents are properly formatted as per the court's filing rules. Electronic court filing offers the opportunity to file anytime, day or night, and any day of the week, unlike paper filing which requires the clerk's office to be open and accepting filings.