Electronic filing of court documents is one of those technologies that can be both a blessing and a curse. While e-filing eliminates the headaches of paper filing and saves time overall, there is no standardization of the process across different courts, requiring different logins, different filing formats, and different steps to take in completing the filing. As a result, one in every 10 filings is rejected for some flaw.

Launching today is a new service designed to address that. From American LegalNet (ALN), the Los Angeles based company whose core product is an end-to-end application for managing litigation dockets, deadlines and documents, comes the new eFiling Portal for law firms.

The portal is designed to provide law firms with a single interface and sign-on to manage and process all their e-filings. The portal also reduces the steps required to process a filing, automatically converts documents to comply with specific court standards, integrates calendaring of docket matters with Microsoft Outlook, and provides a single dashboard to monitor filings and analyze trends.

And for those late-night filings when no one at the court is available to answer your support questions, the service includes an ALN-staffed helpline that runs from 6 a.m. to midnight Pacific time.

But before you get too excited about all this, be aware that the service will be available only for limited courts for the time being, although the company’s plan is to eventually provide the service for every court whose system allows for integration with third-party e-filing providers.

The dashboard gives a firm an overview of all its filing activity.

With today’s launch, the service will be available for e-filings in Los Angeles Superior Court, which is the single-largest unified trial court in the country. In October, it will expand into California’s Orange County Superior Court, and by November, it will cover 22 California court systems.

Coming in December, the portal will expand to cover all state trial courts in Texas and Illinois, and over the course of next year, it will expand into Florida, Georgia and others — particularly those courts that use the Odyssey case management system from Tyler Technologies.

The portal will not be available for e-filing in the federal courts, as the federal courts do not allow third-party integrations.

Pricing for the service will be transactional, meaning that customers will be charged by the filing.

Last week, Erez Bustan, ALN’s founder and CEO, gave me a preview of the e-Filing Portal. He began by discussing the problems with e-filing today. These include the lack of a single sign-on, requiring management of multiple passwords; the varying filing standards from court to court; the lack of integration with calendaring systems; the lack of integration with Outlook mail and calendar; the lack of integration with court forms; the lack of integration with a firm’s financial and DMS systems; and the frequent unavailability of support services.

Bustan said that in Los Angeles Superior Court, 10% of filings are rejected, and his research suggests that rate holds true across jurisdictions. Reasons for rejection range from using an incorrect filing code and mischaracterizing the nature of a filing to submitting documents that are too large or small based on the specific court’s requirements.

The eFiling Portal addresses these issues in several ways, Bustan said:

  • It allows a single sign-on to be used across multiple courts.
  • It enables filings to be accomplished in three standard steps (or four including verification), where typical e-filing interfaces require six to 10 steps.
  • It ensures that filings conform to the document and transaction size limits for the specific court.
  • It automatically converts Microsoft Word documents to the proper PDF filing standard for that court.
  • It provides a dashboard where a firm can monitor all of its e-filing activity and generate reports.
  • It provides a centralized interface for all email related to all e-filing activity.
  • It integrates with ALN’s centralized firm calendar and court rules applications.
  • It can integrate with a firm’s DMS and financial systems. For new ALN customers, initial set-up is required for this integration.

The new portal is being announced today at the annual conference of the National Docketing Association in Denver.