Lawyers know this but the general public may not be aware that as of January 1, 2014 the state of Texas mandated electronic filing of civil matters. The change will be completely effective in all counties as of July 1, 2016, but in the meanwhile, judges, attorneys, court staff, and administrators are getting used to this new change. Gone are the days when a lawyer could stop by the clerk's office to file a document. Now, e-filing service providers (ESPs) transmit our documents electronically to the county clerk or district clerk of our choice. This saves money on additional copies and is a green initiative, but there are some disagreements and misunderstandings about the way this new law affects how attorneys practice.
For example, there has been a long-standing practice among lawyers to bring a hard copy of their proposed order to the judge's attention on the date they are scheduled to appear on a matter. Is this still an acceptable practice? Maybe, but perhaps not. To reduce confusion and keep my clients in the loop about this change, I have discussed the impact this new law has had on my practice. Specifically, it has given me the flexibility to e-file any matter at any time, which saves gas and time. However, I have found it necessary to check and double check on the status of my documents to make sure they are in the right hands being processed correctly. Following up with court staff is a part of my job, and I take that responsibility seriously, but the occasional faulty communication or delay is bound to happen. This is a necessary growing pain and a challenge to many lawyers who had simply gotten used to handling business the old fashioned way.
The law was intended to bring the Texas judiciary into the 21st century and promote the efficient and uniform administration of justice. I'm all for this change and excited to see how lawyers, judges, and the public benefit from a necessary update in policy and procedure in Texas courts.