The state of Illinois will mandate electronic filing (eFiling) in all civil cases on January 1, 2018. Your firm has made the mental shift from denial that the mandate is coming to the acceptance that eFiling is inevitable. Now what?
The first and most important step is choosing an Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP). You have a choice of EFSPs that are “certified” to integrate with the statewide eFileIL system. These EFSPs provide a portal into the state’s Electronic Filing Manager (EFM), which transmits eFiled documents directly to the courts – and returns file-stamped copies to the filer via the EFSP. The EFSP also provides a portal to electronically serve (eServe) pleadings and discovery documents to opposing counsel.
All certified EFSP providers are not created equal. And selecting the right EFSP is crucial for eFiling success. Faced with so many choices, which EFSP is right for you?
Choosing an eFiling provider should be done just as you choose all other litigation support services for your firm. Is cost alone your deciding factor? Probably not. More likely you go to great lengths to research what is right for your firm and consider qualitative factors such as functionality, support, and service.
To jumpstart your research, the four key choices you need to make are:
Look for an EFSP with a focus on law firms, because those providers truly understand your business and want to help your firm succeed. Some EFSPs focus on government entities that pay them for other core services, so eFiling is not what they know and do best.
If your firm handles complex litigation, you will want an EFSP with proven success in that sector, capable of managing the high-volume filing needs of today’s law firms. If your firm operates nationwide, you will also want to choose an EFSP with a national footprint capable of filing into key jurisdictions.
Look for an EFSP that provides an end-to-end secure system with tools and features built around the way law firms operate, such as monthly billing and a document repository.
The statewide eFileIL system requires credit card payment of all fees – service provider fees, standard court filing fees, and credit card “convenience fees.” By choosing an EFSP that offers monthly billing, the EFSP will front these fees and then bill the firm via monthly invoices that are organized with all details needed for billing your clients.
For a firm with heavy filing volume, it can take an accounting staff up to four days to reconcile a credit card statement each month. Plus, credit card statements omit critical details your firm needs for billing clients, such as client matter number. Therefore, the monthly billing service can save resources and avoid headaches for the firm.
Is it important to your firm to have a permanent place to store your file-stamped copies of court documents, that resides on a secure server outside the firm? Not all EFSPs offer permanent document storage. For instance, the eFileIL system provides links to documents that are available for a short time, perhaps 30 days or less. However, some EFSPs keep the documents filed through their system forever – meaning your firm can depend on the documents being available whenever you need them.
If your firm is new to eFiling, you might need some extra support. If you are an eFiling veteran, but simply new to the eFileIL system, you might just need a little guidance. Look for an EFSP that offers an expert customer support team that will have you covered either way and is available by phone, email, or live chat 24/7/365. For training, your firm will want flexible options which might include live training webinars and on-demand training videos, plus user guides you can keep on hand for easy reference. If your firm is large, with multiple offices, and you prefer the efficiency of a firm-specific training for your entire staff, look for an EFSP capable of accommodating personalized training requests.
Pricing models for eFiling systems can range from free to subscription-based. Some EFSPs tout “free” eFiling options but have hidden fees that have been added to the court’s fees, and “convenience fees” tacked on elsewhere. Plus, solutions that offer key features, such as monthly billing and a document repository, may require an added fee or subscription level. “Free” options won’t provide the same experience, features, and service that you would get from an EFSP that charges a nominal service provider fee.
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