Home / Blogs / The Evolution of Electronic Filing: Trends and Innovations in the Legal Industry

The Evolution of Electronic Filing: Trends and Innovations in the Legal Industry

by | Jun 17, 2024

Here’s a trivia question: In 1999, when the state legislature authorized e-filing for the New York state courts, how many cases were filed electronically in the first year?

The answer: None.

While it may have gotten off to a slow start in New York, e-filing is not only ubiquitous, but also mandatory in most circumstances — including at the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division.

PHP has had a front-row seat for this transition. And as the New York courts mark e-filing’s 25th anniversary, the company thought it would be useful to consider the evolution of electronic filing and how the appellate courts, law firms, and appellate service providers have adapted and innovated along the way.

New York’s E-Filing Journey

E-filing in New York was launched as a pilot program that allowed trial court litigants to participate voluntarily. It took ten years for the state to make e-filing a permanent fixture with the 2009 debut of the New York State Courts Electronic Filing System (NYSCEF).

The appellate courts, however, waited another nine years. In 2018, NYSCEF began a limited rollout in the Appellate Division, with each department given the power to decide which types of cases would be eligible.

Over the next few years, e-filing expanded rapidly. Mandatory electronic filing soon followed—hastened, in part, by the onset of the pandemic. In July 2020, for example, the First Department required e-filing on appeals from all matters except original special proceedings and attorney-related proceedings.

Electronic filing systems, a cornerstone of the paperless revolution, allow court documents to be securely stored, easily accessed and quickly shared among relevant parties. E-filing eliminates time-consuming physical document handling, making processes more streamlined and less prone to errors. This system also promotes global filing, automatic service, universal access, cost savings, enhanced security, and an environmentally friendly method of filing and service, instilling confidence in its effectiveness.

With e-file systems, attorneys can now file pleadings, motions, and other court documents electronically rather than submitting paper documents. This reduces the risk of lost or misplaced documents. Additionally, electronic filing systems enable faster processing and dissemination of court documents, ensuring timely access to information for all parties involved.

The Need for Precision

For appellate services like PHP, the old, all-paper filing system required significant resources. Over the decades, PHP built a large staff and printing operation to ensure quality and accuracy and to manage filing volume. The company also adapted to e-filing by implementing state-of-the-art technology and processes to ensure electronic filings met our rigorous standards.

As e-filing expanded, however, new players entered the scene, believing they had spotted an opportunity to offer cut-rate services that would not require a large investment in talent and technology. But the new entrants soon found they had made a mistake. Electronic filing required as much, if not more, attention to detail than the paper system.

Consider formatting requirements for documents. The Joint Electronic Filing Rules of the Appellate Division lay out specific formatting instructions. E-filed documents and hard copies had to be identical, comply with the text searchable PDF archival format, contain bookmarks linking tables of contents of briefs and records to the corresponding page of the document; be paginated to correspond to hard copies; and be scanned at a resolution sufficient to ensure legibility. Court officials also demanded bookmarks or hyperlinks to authorities cited in briefs, favored word-processed documents over scanned documents, and limited the size of PDFs.

In other words, the courts wanted uniformity and precision. And under the rules, clerks were empowered to refuse any electronic document that did not comply with the formatting requirements.

Law firms soon found that technical errors could lead to delays and dismissals, damage to their credibility and client relationships, and even malpractice claims. Relying on a cut-rate appellate services provider without the experience or capacity to adhere to e-filing rules could substantially heighten a law firm’s risk.

A Rigorous Approach to E-Filing

PHP foresaw that the transition to e-filing would require a robust support system. The company maintained and enhanced its resources to ensure seamless service. By investing in advanced technology and retaining a skilled team, PHP is able to offer a level of precision and reliability that ensures every electronic document adheres to the Appellate Division’s rules.

To safeguard its e-filing clients from technical errors, PHP employs a comprehensive strategy that combines technology, expertise, and rigorous quality control. The systems are designed to preemptively catch and correct errors before submission and include automated checks for compliance with formatting rules—such as ensuring documents are in the correct PDF/A format, properly paginated, and include necessary bookmarks and hyperlinks. A team of e-filing experts also manually reviews each filing to confirm its accuracy and adherence to court requirements.

E-filing’s evolution continues. Courts are expected to adopt more comprehensive case management systems that provide real-time access to records and facilitate smoother interactions among jurisdictions. As cyber threats intensify, enhanced security measures will protect sensitive legal documents. Blockchain technology may further bolster security by providing a transaction history and immutable proof of a document’s authenticity.

As e-filing technology advances, PHP will adapt as well and continue to enhance efficiency and protect law firms from the repercussions of e-filing errors. To learn more about the electronic filing process, visit PHP’s e-filing services page or contact us for a consultation.

Recent Posts

The Importance of Presentation in Appellate Cases

Everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Steve Jobs has been credited with coining some version of the adage, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” No matter who said it first, the idea seems particularly apt for lawyers mounting an appeal. Consider one of the...

Wednesday Wisdom

Within 20 days of service, Counsel for a party served with Notification of Case Number and other pertinent information for is required to confirm registration as an e-filer in NYSCEF. After the 20-day period, an attorney who has not entered the information required...

The Role of Expert Appellate Services in Winning Appeals

Winning an appeal requires a precise blend of meticulous preparation, strategic thinking, and deep familiarity with appellate procedures. Expert appellate services can play a crucial role in this journey, providing invaluable support to attorneys at every step of the...

Wednesday Wisdom

Co-Appellants should file together for the same term. However, if one of the co-appellants is not ready for the term intended, a stipulation may be signed by all parties involved and filed with the court consenting to the next term.

Blog Categories