Electronic case filing is a wonderful thing, technologically speaking. I look forward to the continued rollout of eCourt in Oregon, and eventual access to court documents over the Web. But with advancement comes peril: courts have punished lawyers mercilessly for eCourt mistakes. How can you avoid the seven most common legal malpractice traps in eCourt practice? Watch my PowerPoint:
What are the take-aways here?
- Know what you’re doing – Attend training, use online tutorials, download manuals, bookmark answers to FAQs, follow the court’s tips on managing ECF e-mail, and put the court’s Help Desk on speed dial.
- Understand how to properly create PDFs – print don’t publish – and adhere to the new PDF/A standards.
- Learn the work-arounds, such as how to recover missing e-notices if the worst happens. In PACER, click on Reports-Docket Activity, check the box “Only Cases to Which I am Linked,” enter the date range for the missing e-notices, and choose “Run Report.”
- Approach e-filing thoughtfully: double-check the document selected for uploading and review the court confirmation. File well before the deadline to allow recovery time if you accidentally upload the wrong pleading.
- White-list court domains, check your spam filter, and use up-to-date anti-virus software. If your mail server goes off line or you have other e-mail related problems, check the court’s online docket.
- Add staff or other secondary e-mail addresses to filings whenever possible. Alternatively, use e-mail program rules to forward copies of messages or establish a generic e-notice address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org and give access to multiple members of the firm. (The idea is to double-up: two heads are better than one when deadlines are involved.)
- Keep your own file. Don’t rely on third parties, including the court, to keep a file for you. Mistakes by court personnel may be rare, but they do happen.
- Just because the eCourt portal will accept a filing at 11:59 pm on the day of your deadline doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to file at the last minute. If you lose your Internet connection, the court Web portal goes offline, or you encounter other technical difficulties, you’re out of luck. Help Desk staff keep regular business hours, and so should you.
Copyright 2010 Beverly Michaelis