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E-filing will affect almost all legal practices. But what exactly is it? It varies from one court or agency to the next, and that can be confusing when your staff tries to transfer its experience working with one to another. There are three basic components to e-filing: (1) uploading documents; (2) creating an online docket; and (3) e-serving interested parties. Federal district courts have been at the forefront of the e-filing movement, and many jurisdictions have structured their processes to accomplish all of the above. Other state and local courts are beginning to follow suit, however some of the smaller courts systems limit their goal (at least for now) to electronic uploading of files. These courts continue to docket internally with service processed in traditional paper format. EASING INTO THE PROCESS For most courts and agencies, e-filing efforts begin with a pilot project. Then e-filing becomes voluntary. This can be the most challenging time as firms straddle two worlds (some parties e-filing, as others continue to rely on paper-based procedures). Some agencies offer indirect “carrots” to tempt you (i.e., you get an earlier filed date if you e-file rather than submit paper). Often, within a year or so of launching a voluntary program, e-filing becomes mandatory with that court or agency. PDF is by far the most common format for e-filing of documents, for now. XML technology is the likely wave of the future. So begin exploring and understanding that technology as well — it may have a significant impact on your firm’s long-term technology choices. For the short-term, however, ensure your staff has a good understanding of PDF technology. For certain practices, other file formats will loom large — for example, your trademark practitioners rely on JPEGs. Be sure your staff has the resources to manage these demands. TRAINING When they first launch e-filing, courts or agencies may provide training. But consider the logistics – if you file in a court or agency across the country, you may never get that entity’s specific training. Frankly, their training can only address the “middle of the process.” Each firm must create internal procedures and protocols for the beginning and end of the process (courts and agencies cannot effectively address the range of workflow from solo practitioners to megafirms). So, before you can even go to the court or agency’s Web site, what technology will you use to convert documents to PDF? What procedures will you follow after the e-filing process (e.g., ensuring the staff prints the confirmation of e-filing — essentially, your conformed copy — and routing it to the client’s file?) Here are some questions that can help you establish protocols:

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