Technology By Itself Does Not Make a 21st Century Law Firm

Technology By Itself Does Not Make a 21st Century Law Firm

Technology By Itself Does Not Make a 21st Century Law Firm

“Digital Transformation is Not about Technology – it’s about strategy and new ways of thinking.”
Digital Transformation Playbook – David L. Rogers

Technology alone isn’t very good at overcoming inertia. Getting the most out of technology in a way that helps a law firm move forward and achieve its objectives requires careful planning and input from stakeholders across the firm, as well as the expertise and deep domain experience of the firm’s technology vendors. If ever there was a time when law firms needed to explore and leverage the full capabilities of legal technologies to remain competitive it is now, while a pandemic and industry dynamics force law firms to innovate their way onto solid footing in a rapidly changing environment.

This article examines how law firms can strategically bring together internal and external assets to plan and operationalize the full potential of their technology; assuring their ability to capitalize on the operational advantages and data insights technology can offer in support of the firm’s business strategies and objectives.

Adjusting to a rapidly changing industry

Challenges and competitive pressures on the legal profession that would have been difficult to imagine 20 years ago now bear down on law firms across the landscape. Factors that challenge and can threaten a law firm’s survival include law firm mergers, growth in outsourcing legal services, pricing pressures, competitive business models, and increased client demands.

That’s only part of the picture. There are even more challenges rising up from changes in workforce characteristics and evolving technologies.

Some of them include:

  • Multi-generational workforce, shift to remote working or a hybrid model
  • Exponential growth in volume and types of electronic data
  • Court eFiling; law firm automation; client collaboration; new technologies (AI, SaaS, Analytics)

Not every law firm has dealt with all of these factors, but few have escaped them altogether.

Putting Technology Into Action

Looking to technology as an answer to these problems may be tempting but would not ultimately provide the full answer.

The first step to getting technology to do the heavy lifting it was designed for is planning. Great technologies come and go but planning is always in style, and essential for getting the full set of capabilities and advantages technology solutions can offer.

Technology to the Rescue to Address Practice and Business Processes Issues

Before technology can optimally serve a business’s needs, the business must know what its needs are. That first means finding a technology that meets the firm’s requirements and that reflects its business strategies.

All of this should be accounted for while planning for the firm’s practice and business.

Some needs can be uncovered by looking at a firm’s vision, strategies, and plans, including needs related to client matters, business processes, and practice areas. Getting a handle on the full scope of needs requires input from everyone.

By “everyone” we mean law firm staff members who represent an array of disciplines and can contribute expertise relative to the technology being implemented.

Is it really necessary to involve all those disciplines?

Yes, and for good reason.

When you don’t know what you don’t know, ask someone else

Taking on a new technology is not unlike taking on a new employee. Just as human resources departments have a model for making new hires, law firm business models should have a model for acquiring and deploying new technologies. Each model uses specific questions to reveal strengths and weaknesses.

In a law firm, this vetting process should gather individuals from across the organization who possess multidisciplinary expertise to “depose” the legal technology and legal technology vendor.

Why does this approach work?

It’s simple. Let’s look at eFiling and service of process through the eyes of “financial people.” Looking at a new technology through the lens of finance and accounting professionals, you gain insights squarely related to the technology’s finance-specific features or even if not a finance solution, it may have impact to cost-related outcomes for the business.

In the case of data provided by a litigation support service provider, the finance and accounting staff members may notice a system integration between the provider and the firm that can automate reconciliation and allocation of payments to clients. On their recommendation, this process becomes part of the business model which, in turn, makes the firm more efficient.

Did it actually happen?

If you’re wondering whether law firms in the real world use these measure to their advantage the answer is, “Yes.”

In fact, one Los Angeles area law firm used this exact approach to streamline its accounting and save the cost of one full-time employee.

A critical key in leveraging this technology strategically was the daily transfer of order and payment details from the customer relationship management (CRM) system used by the firm’s litigation support service provider directly to the law firm’s CRM.

The success owed to involving multiple stakeholders in the planning who understood the law firm’s needs, recognized an opportunity for technology to satisfy those needs, and turned to technology that met their requirements.

Hard to believe? Read the case study: How This Law Firm Leverages a System With Rapid Legal to Improve Cost Control and Gain Efficiencies.

When it Comes to Data: Think Differently and Think Often

Data adds significant value from within the framework of a law firm’s business model. Data can help a firm save money and lower certain types of risk, so when you consider taking on any technology solution you’ll want to ask questions about the data it provides.

Specifically, you’ll want to ask whether the data is sharable and how it can be used to track performance and identify trends.

You’ll especially want to know whether data can be applied to predict trends or outcomes that might occur. To facilitate this kind of business insight you’ll again want to plan strategically and involve stakeholders from throughout the law firm who understand what data is important, and how it can be used to advance the firm’s objectives.

This approach allows decision makers to use data and analyze it so they understand the performance of efforts you’ve already made. This look back will strategically inform the next move forward.

Properly implemented, legal tech solutions will produce data that tells you how well your business is running. With that, you can continue to let the business evolve and move it forward. At that point you can use predictive analytics to move the law firm even further along.

Analytics is making itself a marquee player in the practice of law. Be certain that your firm’s business model is structured to use the power of analytics and data as a revenue generator, to control costs, help utilize staff, and smartly guide many other functions inside a law firm.


Predictive Analytics for Cost Control
If you’d like to do a deep dive into predictive analytics check out this article to learn how business are using it to control costs.


Cure performance issues with data

Predictive analytics is a glamorous term and its role in courtroom litigation was popularized by the film Runaway Jury. In the trenches of a firm’s day-to-day operations, however, the more routine use of data is less glittery but no less important.

For example, data about the performance of common litigation support services such as court filing, eFiling, and service of process all can help gage the performance of vendors. It is also common to use data to monitor certain litigation support services and know whether they are being delivered as promised.

This information can help firms operate more efficiently and, more importantly, keep more of the revenue they earn. Not all law firms, however, have this data.

This is where a litigation support service provider that provides court filing, service of processes, and other critical services can help. They can collect these types of data and provide it to law firms in regular reports. For example, a firm may want to perform an analysis about key services such as electronic court filing. A firm can use the data in the litigation support service provider’s eFiling reports to evaluate turnaround times and rejection rates, and know whether it needs to course correct.

Similar data can be pulled from a litigation support service provider to measure service of process performance. This data enables a firm to track service level distribution, orders by type, and service of process orders by pricing zone. It’s important for a firm’s business model to use these data sets as cost control measures.

As an example, a firm can examine service of process orders by pricing zone to predict whether the cost of service process in certain locales may be untenable. The firm may also use the reports to gage the vendor’s performance or the law firm’s own internal performance.

When a law firm searches for a litigation support service provider, its business model should stipulate that a provider can deliver these reports.

4 ways your firm’s business model can use sharable data:

  • Service level distribution
  • Orders by type
  • Service of process orders by pricing zone
  • Service of process performance

Read Technology Your Process Server Should Be Using and learn how these reports can save money for your law firm!

Onward and upward

There is power in planning and expertise and uniting all of the key stakeholders in a technology acquisition and deployment. The success of that acquisition hinges on more than simply having a sound business model. It also requires developing and maintaining strategic best practices that move the law firm toward key business outcomes.

The thing to remember about introducing technology to a law firm is this: Technology on its own is just an enablement, but under the guidance of a well-structured business model and involving key firm stakeholders, technology can take you to the moon and back. And, in many cases, the fuel for that trip will be data that helps you continually leverage that technology and plot the course forward.

Learn how you can get the greatest value from the technology and data you already have. Set up a consultation with a Rapid Legal account executive and learn how. Book a demo or schedule a call now.


eFiling and eService Guide for Superior Court of California, County of Orange

Central Justice Center - Orange County Superior Court’s

This 2022 Orange County eFiling and eService guide provides essential information every attorney and paralegal needs to meet the Orange County Superior Court’s latest electronic civil filing requirements. For all Orange County Court eFiling requirements, please visit the court’s website.

Table of Contents

General OCSC Civil eFiling Information

Court Website: www.occourts.org

Local Rules: www.occourts.org/directory/local-rules/local-rules-of-court

Mandatory Case Types: Civil, Probate/Mental Health, Small Claims

Filing Deadline: Documents electronically filed by the 11:59 p.m. deadline on a court day, will be deemed filed as of that day. Electronically filed documents that are received by the Court at 12 midnight—or filed on a non-court day—will be deemed filed on the first court day after it is received.

  • It is important to remember that this provision concerns only the method and effective date of filing. Any document that is electronically filed must satisfy all other legal filing deadlines and requirements.
  • Orange County Superior Court (OCSC) notes that this Rule does not affect the timing requirements for any documents that must be filed by a set time on the due date.

Orange County Court eFiling Deadline

Formatting Requirements: Stipulations and Proposed orders must be submitted in Microsoft Word format. All other documents must be submitted in PDF format.

Courtesy Copies: Not generally required but may be ordered by a judge at any time.

Limitations on Filings: Notwithstanding any other provision of law or this rule certain original documents may not be eFiled, including but not limited to original wills/codicils.

Notes: Documents that are confidential by law should include the word “Confidential” in the caption. If a document is sealed or conditionally sealed, that fact or request should be noted in the Submitter’s Comment Box.

Automated Status Updates: At this time, the public can get access to automated status updates calling the following phones numbers.

Civil

(657) 622-8451

Family

(657) 622-8457

Probate / Mental Health

(657) 622-8452

Another way to reach a clerk is to log onto the Court’s website and select Ask a Question. This will send the clerk an email. Allow 24-48 hours for a response.

Contact: Transaction number is needed

Telephone Hours

Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed for lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

  • Civil (657) 622-5300 – 2, 1, 1, 1 0 for Clerk
  • Probate (657) 622-5300 – 2, 6, 1, 1
  • Probate Direct (657) 622-7845
  • Family (657) 622-6504 – 2, 3, 1, 1

Civil eFiling Document Information

Civil eFiling Document Information

Document types that can be uploaded: PDF

Reasons to upload converted documents: Stipulation and Order documents are required to be uploaded as Word versions instead of PDFs. For more information see the Scanned Documents vs. Converted Documents section of this article.

Documents that cannot be eFiled

The following original documents may not be filed electronically:

For Civil Cases:

  • Bench Warrants;
  • Subpoenaed documents;
  • Labor Commissioner deposit of cash or check;
  • Bonds; and
  • Undertakings.

How to file documents under seal

For firms that are working with documents under seal, to successfully file those documents they must be walked into the Court and physically filed.

A case that is ordered sealed by the court is not eligible for eFiling.

Because the case is sealed, your electronic filing service provider will not have any information regarding your case. Law firms handling cases that have been sealed by the Court should submit those documents at the appropriate courthouse.

The Court’s Civil eFiling page has more details and links to additional eFiling resources.

How to upload your documents

How to upload your documents

Each document that is submitted for filing with the court or issuance by the court should be uploaded as a separate document.

For example, if your document contains a first page, which conforms to rule 2.111 of California Rules of Court, or is a judicial council form or local form, which is being presented to the court for filing or issuance it should be uploaded as a separate document.

Size limits

Individual documents as large as 35 megabytes and a transaction up to 60 megabytes can be accepted. If you believe your document or transaction may exceed these limits, please contact the electronic filing service provider for assistance in optimizing your files and/or utilizing their File Transfer Protocol (FTP) for extremely large documents.

Family Law eFiling

Family Law eFiling

Documents that cannot be eFiled

While electronic filing systems accept a variety of legal documents there are a number of documents that cannot be eFiled in family law cases in OCSC. Among the documents that appear on the OCSC General Family Law eFiling Exceptions list are:

Case processing

  • Appellate Documents
  • Application for publication/posting
  • Bonds
  • Ex parte filings
  • Non-Summary Dissolution Judgment Forms (e.g., FL-180 and FL 250), and Judgment Packets
  • Request for Dismissal
  • Writs/Abstracts

Case Type Specific

  • Adoption – Memos to Set
  • Out-of-State Registration Filings
  • Surrogacy Filings
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile Findings that include a FL-935 Application and Order for Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)

Courtroom

  • Findings and Order After Hearing, Order After Hearing and Judgments
  • Hearing Documents Over 25MB in Size that Cannot Be Compressed
  • QDRO and QDRO Packets
  • Subpoenaed Documents
  • Trial Exhibits

Family Law Codes

A complete list of Family Law Codes for Orange County Superior Court is available on this web page. The codes can be viewed online or downloaded as a PDF.

Avoid common errors

Electronic filing was designed to help reduce errors and improve the accuracy of electronically filed court documents, yet occasionally mistakes are made. Certain errors tend to occur more often than others on eFiled documents, and the Court refers to these errors as “typical reasons for return.”

The following are typical reasons for return for an eFiling:

  • Subsequent filings submitted as new cases
  • Multiple filing documents submitted as a single file
  • Incorrect filing fee submitted
  • Incorrect court form submitted
  • Missing required information

Family Law Questions?

Get answers to more than 37 FAQs about Family Law from this OCSC guide.


Probate/Mental Health eFiling

Documents that may not be eFiled for Probate/Mental Health:

  • Affidavit re: Real Property of Small Value;
  • Financial Documents submitted by Private Professional Conservator;
  • Subpoenaed documents;
  • Undertakings; and
  • Will/Codicils – originals for filing or safekeeping

A detailed FAQ page on the OCSC website offers an expanse of information about eFiling for probate and mental health cases.

Among the valuable advice found in these FAQs is:

  • How to submit a petition for probate and original.
  • How (and whether) to submit original financial documents
  • Filing fee and fee waiver information.

eService and Orange County Superior Court

eService and Orange County Superior Court

For clarity, when this guide uses the term eService, it refers to an electronic substitute for service on opposing counsel.

Traditionally, this part of civil litigation has been carried out using paper documents such as printed facsimiles or U.S. Mail. In the modern world, however, this document exchange can occur electronically using online technologies and email. eService does, however, have certain restrictions.

What’s not allowed for eService

One restriction on eSerivce in the state of California is that papers can be served electronically only if a party or other person has expressly consented to receive electronic service in that specific action.

California also does not allow certain document to be exchanged electronically, such as a document that is required to be served by certified or registered mail.

Orange County Superior Court has not mandated eService. However, this does not mean that eService is not usable or not available in OCSC. California Rules of Court, rule 2.251, states that a party by electronically filing any document with the court thereby agrees to accept electronic service.

Still sorting out the e’s?

No doubt about it, the legal world is chock full of e-terms. If you’d like more clarity about how the many soundalikes relate to each other, be sure to check out Did You Know? eFiling vs. eDelivery and eSubmit are NOT the Same!


 

Stand-Alone Electronic Service (eService) is Here!

Users may now place stand-alone eService orders on the Rapid Legal portal, independent of a court eFiling order.

Why use eService?

eSevice uses email to notify a party that a court document has been served electronically. It is paperless, fast, and efficient.

How eService Works

  • Party A sends an email notification to Party B at an email address Party B authorizes for electronic service. The email formally notifies Party B that a court document(s) has been served.
  • The email identifies the court document(s) by its specific name.
  • The email contains a hyperlink Party B can click on to securely view and download the court document(s).

To place an eService order with Rapid Legal, simply log onto the portal and select “eService” under “Place Order.”

Get complete details about eService in the California Code of Civil Procedure.

eFiling tips from Orange County Superior Court

eFiling tips from Orange County Superior Court

To help assure a smooth and successful eFiling process, OCSC offers these suggestions to electronic court document filers.

How to address bad dates – hearing requests

For law firms that need to file a document that requires a hearing for which the firm has a preferred date, the Court recommends listing dates that are unavailable instead of dates that are available.

Why list the unavailable dates?

  • When the Court knows which dates are unavailable it has more flexibility to find a date that will work. This flexibility means the Court won’t have to return the document to the law firm because of date unavailability.
  • Additionally, the Court asks eFilers to make the comments for the unavailable dates on the comment field that is the same screen as the upload for the FL-300. If the electronic filer does not do this the comments will not be seen upon processing.

How to handle documents larger than 25 megabytes (MB)

The Court has a simple rule about document size: Documents must be compressed to a size that is less than 25MB.

In some cases, however, it may not be possible to compress an electronic document to less than 25MB. For large quantity documents that cannot meet the Court’s 25MB document size limit, OCSC asks for the documents to be delivered in person to the Court.

Correcting court fees

The Court offers this helpful tip about correcting court fees:

  • When completing a filing where fees are due the Court, if you neglect to add the fee, the Court will do so and send a note with the accepted filing. This will reduce your e-filing costs by not having to resubmit the filing again.

Standard Processing Time

Time is money for law firms, so it’s vital to know what type of turnaround time is associated with electronic court filing. The Court offers this tip regarding standard processing time:

Our office is currently processing e-filed documents within 24-48 hours. For At issues and Request to Enter Defaults, the timeline is approximately two weeks.”


Scanned Documents vs. Converted Documents

What are the benefits?

According to OCSC, the most attractive benefit is that converted documents rarely exceed 5.0 MB, since you can usually get hundreds of pages into a 5.0 MB file.

On the other hand, scanned documents can be problematic because scanning creates a considerably larger file size for the same number of pages in comparison to converted documents.

It’s not possible to know for certain how many pages you’ll be able to pack into a file that is smaller 5.0 MB when scanning. With that being said, the Court offers the following examples as benchmarks:

  • 100 pages converted to PDF may be only 1.5 MB
  • 100 pages scanned to PDF at high resolution may be up to 18.0 MB
  • 100 pages scanned to low resolution may be only 3.0 MB

How to select an eFiling partner

How to select an eFiling partner

Electronic filing can be worrisome for those who are new to eFiling. It can also be concerning for law firms that are thinking about changing providers but hesitate to do so because of uncertainty over learning a new provider’s process.

Neither of these scenarios should cause anxiety, and they don’t have to.

You can begin eFiling or switch eFiling providers smoothly by partnering with an EFSP that has an online portal designed to flatten the learning curve. That provider should also have a support team that is available to help you navigate that curve should questions arise.

The portal and support team are just two points on which you’ll want to judge whether an EFSP can serve your needs. You’ll also want to ask about the following during your vendor interviews:

  • Scope of service
  • Performance and productivity
  • Domain knowledge and court filing expertise
  • Performance metrics
  • References

If you’re wondering how prospective vendors should respond to questions about these areas be sure to read A Complete Checklist for Selecting a Certified eFiling Service Provider. In less than 2 minutes you’ll learn how to recognize prospects who have the right stuff to be your preferred EFSP.


Need help with vendor interviews?

Use this checklist to cut through the hype and collect credible information.

Download the checklist now.


Deep dive into eFiling success

Every law firm that adopts eFiling should be able to look forward to spending less time-on-task and lowering the cost of doing business.

If you want a deeper understanding about how technology platforms drive these positive changes check out the resources below. They’re fast, easy reads that you can use to strengthen your own position as a 21st century legal professional.

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to eFiling in 2021 and Beyond

Did You Know? eFiling vs. eDelivery and eSubmit are NOT the Same!

Strict eFiling Requirements Enforcement and What It Means for You

If you’re looking for an electronic filing service provider (EFSP) that can meet your court filing needs as well as provide an array of other valuable services, use the following three resources to find your ideal match.

A Complete Checklist for Selecting a Certified eFiling Service Provider

How Law Firms Can Get Better eFiling Pricing and Service with a Single, Preferred Provider

Technology Your Process Server Should Be Using

Begin eFiling now

Begin eFiling now

The first step is to find an electronic filing service provider (EFSP). The court has an approved list of these providers, including Rapid Legal.

The right provider can help a law firm operate more profitably and with greater efficiency. To get these benefits, however, you’ll want to strike a partnership with an EFSP that is in good standing with the court, can provide references, and has the in-house expertise to help resolve your eFiling challenges.

Strategically, it’s also in any law firm’s best interest to select an EFSP that can file electronically into all courts that accept eFiling. Being able to conveniently eFile into any court that accepts electronic filing without having to switch providers makes a firm more agile and responsive.


Rapid Legal provides eFiling into every California Court that accepts electronic court filing.

See the current list of those courts here.


Rapid Legal excels in every area where eFiling matters most to law firms. Not only do we provide an easy-to-use online portal, but Rapid Legal also has relationships with the Courts where you need to file electronically and the deep domain expertise to make sure your eFiling initiative is a success.

Interested in eFiling using Rapid Legal? Book a demo or create an account today.

To get the most accurate and up-to-date information about eFiling in Orange County Superior Court, please consult the Court’s website.


Skyscrapers reaching toward blue sky with puffy clouds

How This Law Firm Leverages a System With Rapid Legal to Improve Cost Control & Gain Efficiencies

Law Firm Profile

2012

Year Founded

California

HQ Location

2012

Year Started with Rapid Legal

 

Over the past 5 years, this CA-based law firm has been growing exponentially. As a result of this growth, and the commensurate increase in the volume of accounting transactions, the firm recognized that its accounts payables processes needed to be evaluated, streamlined, and automated. The firm looked to its CFO, a CPA with over 20 years’ experience in Public and Private Accounting. The CFO first identified the vendors who generate a significant volume of invoices for the firm. They felt that if the process of recording invoices could somehow be automated, it would significantly impact the efficiency of the firm’s accounts payable cycle and enhance the reporting capabilities of the firm. The CFO turned to Rapid Legal, the firm’s leading litigation support service provider, for help in this process.

“Rapid Legal is one of our high-volume vendors, providing litigation support services in the form of eFiling and process serving. During our initial conversations, it was revealed that both Rapid Legal and our law firm use the same CRM to manage customer/client relationships. We thought, why don’t we integrate our systems, so Rapid Legal can push data and information directly into our system? So, we eventually did. This eliminates data entry duplication by our accounting staff and ensures all transaction receipts and documents are directly stored in our system. These days, everything is so seamless and effortless. We have 200+ receipts being pushed to our CRM and QuickBooks nearly every day in a process that is now totally hands-off.” 

Record Growth Creates New Challenges

The law firm’s record growth has resulted in an expected increase in litigation expenses. “We literally went from a few invoices a day from vendors providing litigation support services to hundreds per day. The invoice count was even higher, in fact, 5-10x higher, for our high-volume vendors. Given this growth in volume, it became even more important to evaluate and implement the right approach and processes to accurately track, reconcile, and account for these invoices, fees, and payments, such as court fees and vendor service fees. This is particularly critical because these fees need to be properly accounted for and reimbursed at the conclusion of each case,” said the firm’s CFO.

The law firm also faced other challenges. The firm’s processes around these litigation support service expenses required a significant amount of manual effort and cost to manage and execute. In addition, as with any manual process, there’s always the possibility of error in tracking and reconciling expenses.  The firm’s CFO further elaborated, “Fee motion preparation and management was a big pain point for us. Without automated cost controls and visibility, a firm can run the risk of not properly associating vendor expenses with fee motions in cases, resulting in filing Fee Motions that are “understated,” meaning we’re not maximizing our revenue opportunities.”

An Unlikely Request and Solution

As a modern, tech-enabled law firm, the firm saw the value of leveraging data and technology to automate its workflows, maximize expense visibility & control, and improve other business outcomes.

The law firm uses a CRM (customer relationship management system) for matter and case management and QuickBooks for accounting and finance. Rapid Legal’s cloud-based litigation support services platform, LegalConnect, captures all order data, documents, and payments for each order placed with Rapid Legal. This data is then integrated with Rapid Legal’s CRM instance for ongoing customer relationship management.

“I don’t know of many litigation support service providers willing, or even able, to push data from their system directly to the law firm’s system but given all the court fees that Rapid Legal needs to pass on, along with its own service fees, it was particularly critical for us to ensure all fees and invoices were accurately captured in our systems. We also wanted to reduce the accounting staff time needed to reconcile all these expenses,” said the firm’s CFO. “We asked Rapid Legal if it had the capability to integrate with our CRM. To my delight, Rapid Legal welcomed the opportunity.”

System-to-System Integration for the Win

Over the course of a couple of months, Rapid Legal worked with the law firm’s technology team to implement a CRM-to-CRM integration. The scope entailed transferring Rapid Legal order and payment details data daily from its CRM instance to the firm’s own CRM system.

“It’s great that the data and records are automatically deposited into our system. It’s so seamless. We’ve already set up a dashboard in CRM that gives me and the firm’s staff insight into the various litigation services and related expenses.”

The law firm’s next step is to develop reporting capabilities for metrics and insights.

“Our fee motion management will be done faster and with greater assurance of accuracy, our accounts payables will be better tracked and managed, and our staff’s productivity will be better utilized from the efficiencies gained,” shared the firm’s CFO.

“I used to have the equivalent of one full-time employee reconciling invoices and expenses for fee motions. Now, we’re nearly in a position to reallocate these resources to activities that will deliver greater value to the firm and our clients.”


Female attorney reviewing document.

The Ultimate Guide for Process Serving

Process servers are the hands and legs of civil litigation. Millions of dollars in fees and settlements hinge on good process serving, so it is critical to have a reliable process service provider who can serve documents promptly and keep cases from becoming problematic as they move upstream. This article helps law firms recognize the traits of a process server that is reliable, effective, and can serve as a strategic partner to the firm.

Where do good process servers come from?

Since most states require no special licensing or education for process serving, it is not uncommon to hear the refrain, “Almost anyone can be a process server.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Good process servers are prized for their efficiency, efficacy, and reliability. But there is a more specific set of qualities that separate excellent process servers from the merely adequate. They include:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Patience
  • Industriousness
  • Craftiness

These four qualities are especially important when a process server is attempting to serve parties likely to evade service. Defendants may attempt to dodge service through behaviors that range from not answering a door knock to moving out of state. A professional process server knows how to deal with these behaviors, overcome them, and successfully serve legal papers.

Qualities to focus on when evaluating a potential process server:

Resourcefulness

A process server who is resourceful can adjust to variables such as location, presentation, and identity, to get documents served. Here is an example of how a resourceful process server might make those adjustments to serve an evasive party:

Floral delivery: In this scenario, the process server assumes the role of delivery person and stages a delivery to the defendant at a bona fide event such as a defendant’s birthday, anniversary, or holiday observation.

If the person who answers the door hesitates to allow the process server inside the home, the process server overcomes those objections by stating that the floral arrangement must be handed over personally to the party being served.

Upon encountering the party face-to-face, the server asks, “Are you Jane Doe?” The party responds in the affirmative and the process server hands over the documents to the defendant, along with the flowers.

Other approaches some resourceful process servers have used include dressing as a pizza delivery person and attaching a subpoena to the inside of a pizza box, or to wearing clothing like a commercial parcel delivery service and either handing over documents or attaching them to a box.

Patience

It is sometimes more cost-effective to wait out a party rather than return multiple times to a bad address. A good process server knows that in some cases the most efficient solution is to wait for a party to appear at a location where the individual is known to frequent. This requires only that the server exercise patience and make the serve lawfully. (They may even offer a stakeout, which is typically an additional fee.)

Some process servers may be tempted to bend the rules and leave documents at a location even when the party to be served is nowhere in sight. To avoid this type of service, which will jeopardize a lawsuit, law firms should research the provider’s reputation to assure their serves are ethical and stand up to scrutiny.

Industriousness

Process serving is not a 9 to 5 occupation. A high-performing process server will be diligent and willing to put in long hours or work odd schedules as a matter of course. This is especially helpful when defendants are unlikely to be at a particular location at a specific time.

In this case, the process server overcomes an evasive defendant simply by putting in the time, travel, and effort to meet the party when and where that person becomes available.

Craftiness

A process server who is crafty may combine resourcefulness, industriousness, and patience to successfully serve court documents. Leveraging these qualities to identify a good address for service is one of the most productive things a process server can do.

To establish a good address the process server may ask neighbors or other locals about information that can help determine where a party lives, when the party may be at a residence, and where the party may go when he or she leaves the residence. Following is an example of how a crafty process server may execute this:

Package delivery: In this scenario, the process server carries a package marked for delivery to the defendant. Instead of going to the defendant’s address the process server approaches a neighbor’s door and says, “Hello, I have a delivery for John Doe.”

The neighbor may respond with, “John Doe doesn’t live here, he lives in the house across the street. You have the wrong address.”

Another response may be, “John Doe used to live here but he moved across the street 5 years ago.”

As the process server leaves, he may ask, “Do you know whether John Doe is home right now so I can deliver this?” The neighbor may respond: “Yes, he is,” or, “No, John usually doesn’t arrive home until about 7 p.m.”

Now the process server has actionable information that can be used to pinpoint a good address or guide further investigation to ascertain the correct address.

The time and effort spent validating that address oftentimes will be less costly than making multiple attempts at a bad address. That is important because it typically costs money each time service is attempted.

Research and technology

A crafty process server will also be a skilled researcher and an expert in making serves as efficient as possible. Again, this is vital for dealing with hard-to-serve parties, and one way a crafty server will tackle such assignments is to use technology that performs skip tracing. Parties associated with debt-collection cases oftentimes may avoid service by moving out of town or out of state. Skip tracing can help locate these individuals so that papers can be served.

Another tactic a good process server may use is to simply leave papers with a party being served. This can be an effective tactic should the party refuse to take the documents in hand.

Success indicators

A process server worth having is one that is experienced and has statistics to back up any claims about performance. One good way to judge a service of process provider is to ask about that provider’s serve success rate.

A high serve success rate indicates that a process server is consistently successful in serving case participants. Anything above 90% is good.

Additionally, a good process server will have a reputation for serving parties quickly and promptly delivering proof of service. A desirable process server will also be a capable researcher who uses online resources to maximize the effectiveness of in-person work.

Speed of Service

Gaging a process server’s speed of service means looking at how quickly the provider can successfully complete a serve as well as how quickly the Proof of Service is delivered back to the law firm. For example, a process server may require 10 days to get someone served, and an additional 3 days to complete and provide the Proof of Service to the firm. It is important to understand the average amount of time required for both of those processes in order to accurately estimate speed of service.

Customer Service

Law firms should also be sure to ask a process serving company how serious it is about customer satisfaction. It’s important to ask the provider how it tracks customer satisfaction and whether it can show proof of satisfaction scores or reports. And it is vitally important to ask what the provider does when customers are not satisfied.


Do you think you know a good service of process provider when you see one? Test your knowledge here:

What to Look for When Hiring a Process Serving Company.


California Process Server Requirements

In California, a person who wants to become a registered process server will have to go through several steps to achieve registration. According to the California Association of Legal Support Professionals (CALSPro), becoming a registered process server in the state requires the following:

  • Complete a registration form.
  • Be fingerprinted (to verify the applicant has not been convicted of a felony.
  • Complete a background check.
  • Obtain a bond (valid for the 2-year term of registration).
  • Two passport-size photos.
  • Pay fees (base fee to register as of November 2021 is $134).

In California process servers are not required to be licensed, according to the National Association of Professional Process Servers (NAPPS). The association points out, however, that any individual who serves more than 10 papers annually must be registered either in the county in which they live or have their primary place of business.

The Process Server’s Bread and Butter:

Service of Process

Process servers handle a variety of court documents ranging from subpoenas and complaints to eviction notices and summonses. Those documents all have important functions that operationalize once handed over by a process server, but the one document a process server carries that confers possibly the most gravitas of all is service of process.

Following is a brief examination of what service of process is, how it is carried out, and what distinguishes it from other terms that sound similar but are quite different.

Service of process methods

For the most part, service of process must be done in person. But is that the only way?

Not always.

Personal service and substituted service are two common types of service of process used in the United States, with personal service being the one most difficult for a defendant to attack for its legality.

Another method used to perform service of process is publication. For example, publication in a newspaper.

Publication as a process serving method may be useful if a defendant cannot be located. This method provides constructive notice as opposed to actual notice. It is also considered the lowest constitutionally acceptable form of service. In the state of California service via publication is authorized by Code of Civil Procedure 415.50.

Service of process may also be conducted via public posting. This method is sometimes used when a defendant cannot be located. As the name suggests, public posting is performed by posting a notice in a place the defendant is known to frequent.

While Public posting is used to perform service of process it sometimes may be problematic. For example, using the public posting method may imply that the plaintiff knows where the defendant frequents but was possibly lax in efforts to find the defendant. Public posting may also suggest the plaintiff only guessed at places the defendant may frequent.


Details governing the use of public posting in California

appear in Code of Civil Procedure 415.45.


In some cases, service of process may even be performed using social media such as Facebook. This service of process method is rare, however, and still in its infancy.

Service of Process vs. Giving Notice

There is a difference between documents that can—or must—be served personally (service of process) and documents that can be eServed, mailed, or handled by other means (eService). The difference between these two types of documents lies in the results they create, and here are the critical distinctions you should know.

eService: Giving notice

The role of eService in civil litigation is straightforward: eService is an electronic substitute for service on opposing counsel. This aspect of civil litigation traditionally has been executed with paper documents such as printed facsimiles or the U.S. Mail.

In the 21st century, however, things are different. Now, online technology and email make it possible for document exchange to occur electronically. But not without a catch.

For example, in the state of California, papers can be served electronically only if a party or other person has expressly consented to receive electronic service in that specific action.

Another notable restriction on eService in California is that some documents simply are not allowed to be exchanged electronically. For example, a document required to be served by certified or registered mail is not authorized for electronic service.

Service of process: Getting jurisdiction

Service of process is performed when a party other than the plaintiff gives a copy of the court papers to the party the plaintiff is suing. Service advises the other party of three critical things:

    • What the plaintiff is asking for
    • Date and place of the trial
    • What the party can choose to do

Looking deeper at service of process we see that it gives the court the power to adjudicate a case or issue. We also see that it gives the court the “power” to command witnesses to appear: it confers jurisdiction.

Proof of service procedures

Personal service vs. substituted service

Once you’ve decided on a provider for you service of process, you’ll need to determine which method of service will be used.

There are three primary methods for service of process: 1.) actual or personal service; 2.) substituted service, 3.) service by publication. The two methods that are most common are personal service and substituted service.

Personal service may be as simple as approaching the person to be served and saying, “These are court papers.” Then, present the person copies of all papers checked on the form, or leave the documents within close proximity. An easy speaking distance is a good rule of thumb for judging this distance. It isn’t always that simple, but rarely is it a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse carried out in dark alleys.

Substituted service is a method that can be used when the plaintiff doesn’t want to use personal service or may not be able to locate the party to be served. To perform substituted service the person performing service must be at least 18 years of age and not listed in the case. Substituted service also requires the additional step of mailing another copy of the papers by first class mail to the party being sued at the same address where the papers were left.

For substituted service, state law may require that documents be mailed to the party being served in addition to standard substituted service requirements. This is currently the case in California, New York, and Illinois, so it is important to find out whether your state requires this additional task.

Process server: a law firm’s strategic partner

At the highest level of process servers are those who have the right stuff to become a strategic partner. A vendor that is qualified to fill this role may be affiliated with a larger litigation support service provider and, thus, invisible to the law firm itself. The litigation support service provider brings value to the law firm, however, with deep industry experience, a technology platform that delivers efficiency, and a provable history of high performance.

Technology for process serving

As a strategic partner, the litigation support service provider uses its technology platform to innovate a better way for the law firm to operate. One way it can do that is to make data about process service orders in the provider’s own system shareable with the law firm’s systems. This can be especially useful by making data instantly available about billing, court fees, vendor fees, and payments for process serving orders.


Interested in Learning Other Process Serving Technology Use Cases?

Read: Technology Your Process Server Should Be Using


Data is better than a crystal ball

If you’re unclear about how sharing this data positively impacts the bottom line, think of it this way: For each case, every transaction receipt and every document can be stored in a law firm’s own system. This means fees and payments can be easily accounted for and reimbursed when the case ends, dramatically collapsing the time needed to reconcile expenses.

A portal also allows the vendor to manage and efficiently track the performance of its affiliate network in executing the serve. This, in turn, builds an extremely high level of accountability felt all along the service of process supply chain.

The portal also creates two other important advantages to improve service of process efficiency: it eliminates paper controls and allows the server to eSign the proof of service.

Measure the results

Sharable data can also be used to create strategic reports. These reports provide detailed views of service of process orders and the vendor’s execution thereof, as well as other order types placed through the portal. At a glance, users can see which types of orders contribute positively to the firm’s bottom line and which types compromise it.

Most law firms lack the infrastructure and staff to collect business intelligence at this level easily. That’s why it’s important to have a vendor whose technology makes it simple to gather and share it. If your litigation support service provider isn’t able or willing to deliver this sort of value to help you grow, it’s probably time to find one that will.


4 ways you should be using sharable data in your firm’s business strategy:

  • Service level distribution
  • Orders by type
  • Service of process orders by pricing zone
  • Service of process performance

Read Technology Your Process Server Should Be Using and learn how these reports can save money for your law firm!


Expert advice is a click away

By reading this article, you’ve taken an important first step toward building your process serving expertise. The thing to remember about process serving—as the term implies—is that it is a process. It is a task filled with nuance that won’t be mastered overnight. So don’t be afraid to seek advice and expertise.

Rapid Legal possesses some of the industry’s deepest process serving expertise, thanks to staff members who have decades of hands-on, practical experience as professional process servers. That expertise is built into our technology platform to make it easy for you to fulfill your process serving needs from a single, simple-to-use source.

If you’d like to see for yourself how process serving can be done conveniently from our online portal, contact one of our account executives for a no-obligation demonstration.

 


Book a demo or schedule a call

with a Rapid Legal team member now.


Be part of your firm’s success story by choosing a litigation support service partner who has your back when it’s time to make critical decisions about this function. Ask us anything and don’t worry about being judged.

There is no judgement. At least not until the court papers are served.

Addendum:

Most commonly served documents

A process server’s toolkit primarily consists of documents: paper or electronic. Each document performs a distinct function and some will significantly alter the course of business or relationships.

It’s critical to understand the legal action each document triggers, so we’ve defined them here in alphabetical order:

Complaint: The initial pleading in which an action is commenced and sets forth a claim for relief. The filing of the complaint is a charge against a defendant or several defendants and sets forth a cause or causes of actions against them.

Notice of Motion: A notice in writing stating that a certain day designated a motion will be made to the court for the purpose or object stated. The notice is served on opposing counsel and all parties and gives all parties a time and date for the court hearing.

Notice to Quit: This notice is given to tenants to terminate the tenancy of the premises. The notice states that at the end of the specified date, the tenancy is terminated and directs that the tenant must move out.

Notice to Pay Rent or Quit: A notice to a tenant of a rental property, informing him or her that the rent or a portion of the rent is due. Service on the tenant in writing that the rent is due usually in three days after the date of service, and if the rent is not paid, the tenant is requested to “quit” (leave) the premises.

Opposition: A pleading filed to oppose or state a reason a Motion should not be granted, otherwise known as a 1011.

Order for Appearance (ORAP): This is a court order that compels a personal appearance of the judgment debtor. Disobedience of this order by not appearing could subject the judgment debtor to a citation of contempt and ultimately lead to an arrest.

Order to Show Cause: An order to appear as directed, and presents to the court such reasons or considerations as one has to offer why a particular order should not be confirmed, take effect or to be executed.

Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to go to Small Claims Court: A claim of plaintiff is a small claims document filed by the plaintiff against the defendant of defendants. The claim must be for a monetary amount only. The claim is a 5 page document stating how the defendant or defendants damaged the plaintiff and in what amount.

Temporary Restraining Order: This is an order compelling compliance and failure to obey it could result in bringing the person restrained into contempt of court and possible arrest. A TRO is a case matter that might restrain the respondent from calling, harassing or bothering the petitioner. The order is to restrain the person served from doing any act specified in the order until the hearing takes place.

Summons: A writ of process [issued by the clerk of the court] the person named that an action has been commenced against him in the court from where the process issues and that he/she is required to appear.

Subpoena: A command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony as a witness.


Los Angeles Superior Court eFiling and eService Guide for 2021

rapid legal

Filing Deadline

11:59 p.m.
on the court day
that the filing is due.

Formatting Requirements: Documents must be eFiled as separate text searchable PDF and otherwise comply with CRC, Rule 3.1110(f)(4). Attachments to Probate Accountings shall be bookmarked exhibits. Writs and abstracts must be submitted as a separate electronic envelope. Sealed and conditionally under seal documents pursuant to CRC Rule 2.551 shall be eFiled; the burden of accurately designating the documents at the time of submission is the party’s responsibility. It is also the filing party’s responsibility to redact confidential information.

Courtesy Copies: In certain instances, and pursuant to the operative General Order Re Mandatory Electronic Filing for Civil, printed courtesy copies must be submitted to the Court. Proof of electronic submission must be submitted with all courtesy copies. Regardless of the time of electronic filing, a printed courtesy copy is required for the following documents:

  • Any printed document required pursuant to a Standing or General Order.
  • Pleadings and motions (including attachments such as declarations and exhibits) of 26 pages or more.
  • Pleadings and motions that include points and authorities.
  • Demurrers.
  • Anti-SLAPP filings, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 425.16.
  • Motions for Summary Judgment/Adjudication.
  • Motions to Compel Further Discovery.
  • Opposition to an ex parte application.

Limitations on eFilings:

  1. Peremptory challenges or challenges for cause of a judicial officer
  2. Bond/undertaking documents
  3. Trial and evidentiary hearing exhibits

Any ex parte application filed concurrently with a new complaint, including those that will be assigned to the Writs and Receivers departments in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Documents submitted conditionally under seal. The actual motion or application shall be electronically filed. A courtesy copy of the electronically filed motion or application to submit documents conditionally under seal must be provided with the documents submitted conditionally under seal and delivered directly to the courtroom to which the case is assigned.

Need to eFile into other courts?

Rapid Legal provides electronic filing services to 100% of California courts that accept eFiling.

See the current list of those courts here.


Phone hours

8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Compton
310-761-4300
Spring St
213-310-7000
Santa Monica
310-255-1963
Glendale
818-265-6400
SMC Probate
213-830-0850
Torrance
310-787-3700
Norwalk
562-345-3700
Compton UD
562-256-2315 Prompt – 1,3,2
Van Nuys
818-901-4795
Lancaster UD
661-483-5797 Prompt – 1,3,2,
Stanley Mosk
213-830-0831
Phone hours
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Looking for an eFiling service provider (EFSP) to file into LASC?

Before you decide: Download the EFSP checklist


New in 2021: LASC Makes Complex Civil eFiling Mandatory

As of Sept. 20, 2021, LASC made eFiling for complex litigation mandatory. For legal professionals who have questions about this development, the Court will temporarily provide an email address for questions about complex litigation eFiling.

That email address is: ComplexEfilingQuestions@lacourt.org.

Where to find it: Comprehensive eFiling info

A presentation from LASC tailored specifically to the needs of legal professionals is available as a downloadable PDF and can also be read online. Topics of special interest include:

  • General Order and Authorizing Statutes
  • Bulletin Board
  • Requirements for Complex Documents
  • Complex Filing Fees
  • Common Rejection Reasons and eFiling Tips
  • Proposed Orders

38 answers for legal pros

In addition to the presentation mentioned above, LASC has created a Q&A that aims to provide clarity and context to a variety of questions around Complex eFiling. There are a total of 38 Q&As on this web page, each offering a deep dive into concerns many legal professionals may have specific to LASC.

Among the subjects this Q&A clarifies:

  • Bulletin Board (what is it and how you should use it)
  • Bulk Party List (including whether to submit as a “live” Excel spreadsheet or convert to PDF)
  • Electronic envelopes/transactions
  • Documents under seal
  • Deadlines for eFiling
  • Document size and type
  • JCCP

Also New in 2021: Family Law eFiling

Effective November 15, 2021, LASC will implement mandatory efiling for documents filed by litigants represented by attorneys. Self-represented litigants have the option to electronically file their documents with the court.

What LASC’s eFiling experts say

A video presentation that details the rollout of eFiling in the Family Law Division is available for public viewing. The speakers on this 36-minute video include Hon. Eric Taylor, Presiding Judge, LASC; Sherri R. Carter, Executive Officer/Clerk, LASC; Anaruth Gonzalez, Director, Family Law, LASC; and Hon. Lawrence Riff, Supervising Judge of Family Law, LASC.

Among the important points discussed in this video are:

  • General order and authorizing statutes
  • Exempt documents
  • Common rejection reasons
  • Proposed orders
  • Court’s website for information

Watch the video presentation for in-depth information about eFiling in LASC.

FAQs

for LASC Family Law eFiling

If you don’t have time to watch the video or prefer to scan the information on a standard web page, LASC has a complete list of FAQs regarding Family Law eFiling available for download or reading online. A total of 86 questions are answered in this list, updated as of Oct. 7, 2021.

Here are just a few of the important tips these FAQs provide:

Q.) Is eFiling the same as Faxfiling?

A.) No. For efiling, the filing party must use an EFSP and submit documents for filing over the internet.

Q.) Can I use my personal computer to eFile?

A.) Yes. You can use your personal computer to submit filings through an EFSP.

Q.) Are my eFiled documents printed for the court file?

A.) No. Documents that are electronically filed and accepted by the Court are automatically uploaded to the court’s case management system.

Q.) How do I submit my judgment packet?

A.) Judgment packets should continue to be filed in paper via drop box, mail, or in person and shall continue to include self-addressed stamped envelopes for return of conformed copies.

Q.) Are documents available to the public upon submission or upon processing?

A.) Filing parties may view submitted documents immediately through their EFSP’s portal. All other parties will be able to view a document from the internet, or on public terminals located at any Los Angeles County courthouse, after filing by the court.

Family Law and eService in LASC

If service of process is a new part of your job, be sure to read How Service of Process Works to develop a 360-degree understanding about this crucial aspect of the court system.

However, even if service of process is all part of a day’s work for you, but you typically use traditional process serving methods, you’ll need to get up to speed about eService before you begin working with LASC’s Family Law Division.

A set of FAQs updated by LASC on Oct. 7. 2021 was created to help you do exactly that.

Below is a sampling of topics the complete list of FAQs addresses that has been edited for length. The unabridged version of these FAQs appears in the Court’s Family Law eFiling FAQ.

Q.) Can I use an EFSP to electronically serve other parties?

A.) Yes. EFSPs offer this service for a fee. Refer to the specific EFSP’s website to determine which service best fits your business needs.

Q.) What are the rules or guidelines for electronic service?

A.) Refer to California Rules of Court, rule 2.251 and Code of Civil Procedure Section 1010.6.

Q.) If I file electronically, have I consented to electronic service on this case?

A.) Yes. By efiling the document, you agree to accept electronic service at the electronic service address you provided.

The FAQ also includes information that addresses court requirements for courtesy copies and scanned documents. Here are three of them:

Q.) Do I need to submit a printed courtesy copy?

A.) A judicial officer may request a courtesy copy of documents as needed.

Q.) Does it matter what DPI (dots per inch) is used when scanning a document?

A.) Yes. The Trial Court Records Manual recommends 300 DPI resolution.

Q.) Do I need to scan a document that includes an original signature?

A.) No. Retention of original signed documents is governed by California Rules of Court.

These are just a few helpful tips you can use to make your eService successful. Be sure to check out the complete list in the Family Law eFiling FAQ

Professional man reading award certificate

Resources for eSuccess

There is plenty to be excited about with eFiling and eService making its way into LASC. Two things virtually every law firm can look forward to is less time spent on-task and a lower cost of doing business.

If you’d like to develop a more global view of how technology platforms are helping drive these positive changes be sure to check out the resources below. They’re fast, easy reads that you can use to strengthen your own position as a 21st century legal professional.

If you’re looking for an electronic filing service provider (EFSP) that can meet your court filing needs as well as provide an array of other valuable services, use the following three resources to find your ideal match.

Wondering how Rapid Legal Can Help?

Get off on the right foot when you eFile into LASC. Put the unrivaled industry experience and technology platform Rapid Legal provides to work for you. Book a demo or schedule a call with a Rapid Legal team member.

Information on this web page is current as of October 21, 2021. Please consult the Los Angeles Superior Court website to get the most up-to-date information about electronic filing for the Court.


It’s Time for Law Firms to Think Differently About How They Use Litigation Support Service Providers

Technology changes the strategic advantages litigation support service providers can offer. It’s time for law firms to think differently about how that relationship can elevate their position and stature with customers and peers. A key consideration is to select a strategic partner over a transactional vendor.

Don’t be Kodak. In 1990 the company was valued at approximately $30 billion and it was bankrupt by 2012. Why? Because the Kodak brain trust never thought differently about itself, its partners, or its customers. The company never considered digital photography a serious threat and continued to bet the farm on the status quo.

The decision to bet the farm led Kodak to buy the farm.

Think your way to success

Law firms can learn an important lesson from the Kodak story: Look closely at the technology and expertise your litigation support services provider brings to the table and think about how you can use those assets to achieve your business goals.

The first step is to stop thinking about litigation support services providers as vendors and begin thinking about them as strategic partners. It’s a big, competitive world out there, and you need expert partners you can count on to work in your corner.

What does “strategic” look like?

It can be confusing to understand what defines a strategic partner. Words like “strategy” and “strategic” get lost easily in buzzword bingo, and for this discussion, we need to clearly distinguish strategic partner thinking from transactional vendor thinking. So, here is a simple way we define each for litigation support service providers:

  • A strategic litigation support service partner does more for your business than just supply a service. A strategic partner focuses on providing you a complete solution by leveraging their expertise, experience, technology, and customer support resources to meet your needs. They are proactive with you and seek to add value to your firm. They inquire about your firm’s goals and objectives to understand their role and fit in helping you achieve them. They focus on strategic business outcomes like cost and process efficiencies as well as risk management. They are always thinking of new and different ways to do things. They care about each interaction with you because their focus is a long-term relationship and partnership with your firm. They provide you data and reports for transparency and accountability, plus much more.
  • A transactional litigation support service vendor, on the other hand, simply sells you a service. They tend to be reactive to your needs. They tend to think and act tactically by focusing on the what, not the why, focusing on the now, not the future, focusing on the status quo, not innovation. They will typically take care of your firm’s basic needs, but they will not have the capability nor mindset to solve new problems or seize new opportunities for your firm.

The differences that legitimately separate strategic partners from the sprawling field of transactional vendors may not be readily apparent on the surface. To further illustrate, Table 1 notes key characteristics of a company that has strategy markers in its DNA versus one that does not.

Table 1.

STRATEGIC PARTNER

TRANSACTIONAL VENDOR

Focuses on the law firm’s long-term success.

  • Provides services or products for which it is paid but is always looking at the bigger picture and how it can deliver maximum value to the law firm. Seeks to help the firm advance its business goals and unlock greater growth. Identifies and seizes opportunities or solves problems that improve strategic outcomes for the firm.
Focuses on the short-term.

  • Provides services or products for which it is paid. Unlikely to provide anything additional of strategic value or actively work to advance the law firm’s business goals. Is narrowly focused on delivering the original scope of services but does not look for new opportunities to exploit or problems to help solve for the firm.
Provides full accountability and proof of performance.

  • Demonstrates how it impacts its law firm clients by providing performance metrics such as: – eFiling Turnaround Times – Serve Success Rates – User Behavior and Order Data
  • Provides monthly/quarterly reports and client review meetings for greater transparency, performance accountability, and improvement.
  • Service performance is proven by the partner through metrics, reports, and review meetings with the client.
Offers minimal accountability and proof of performance.

  • Does not have the capability or desire to share data and reports with its customers.
  • Performance is what the vendor says it is.
Pursues innovative ways to advance how electronic documents, information and payments are exchanged in the legal community.

  • Is a certified eFiling Service Provider for all courts in California leveraging advanced, proprietary file + serve technology.
  • Vigorously challenges the status quo to raise the bar for its industry peers and clients. Always pushing to be faster and better by blending its expertise with legal technology to maximize law firm efficiency, productivity, risk mitigation.
  • Applies forward-thinking expertise by leveraging data, integrating systems, and automating legal processes for its law firm clients.
Prefers the status quo and uncomfortable with change.

  • May be a certified eFiling Service Provider for some counties, but not all.
  • Has minimal or no legal technology expertise. Focuses more on service delivery than technology and automation for its clients.
  • Has minimal or no capability to leverage data, integrate systems or automate legal processes for its clients.

Now that you see some of the tell-tale differences between strategic vendors and transactional vendors, it’s time for a look closer at how these differences affect a law firm’s business strategy. Let’s examine each dimension in a little more detail.

Relationship (long-term vs. short term)

This is the easiest of the strategic characteristics to understand. A long-term strategic partner will want to provide turnkey solutions that improve efficiencies and reduce costs. As one example, a strategic vendor can add value beyond everyday litigation support service delivery by integrating its portal with the law firm’s system to push service expense data that makes client/expense reconciliation far easier and more accurate.

If you can’t imagine the litigation support services provider you currently have bringing this kind of value to the table, be sure to read about how Rapid Legal worked with a large lemon law firm to make this type of synergy a reality in the case study near the end of this article.

Not every potential strategic partner may be able to orchestrate a system-to-system integration; and that scale of operation may not make sense for every strategic business relationship. But that should not keep you from thinking of your litigation support services provider as a partner who can offer strategic solutions like automated workflows or pulling/pushing data for report generation or expense reconciliation. In some cases, their strategic support may be as simple as providing an expert review service for your court filing to maximize court acceptance of your documents or helping you with an additional court service like document retrieval or courtesy copy delivery.

Do you want to test whether a litigation support services provider is strategic partner material? Ask yourself whether the vendor is consultative and seems willing to work for the mutual benefit of both sides. If the vendor seems focused only on order fulfillment, they’re probably not.

Accountability and Performance

There is no substitute for data when it comes to measuring performance, and few things keep business partners accountable to each other like objective data that both sides can compare. Whether it’s days and hours associated with turnaround time, dollars and cents in receivables and payables, or filing acceptance rates by the court, the most important measures of success or failure should be transparently shared between partners.

What sorts of data should law firms look for? Here are three that every firm can use as a barometer of performance for their provider and themselves from Table 1:

  • eFiling Turnaround Times
  • Serve Success Rates
  • User Behavior and Order Data

While those three measures can provide a high-level view of performance, there are more granular types of data that can elevate a law firm’s performance. Among the data sets a strategic partner can provide to help steer operational success are:

  • Type of orders placed
  • eFiling orders by county
  • Service of process orders by service level and pricing zone
  • Number of documents served (by days elapsed)
  • Proofs of service returned (by days elapsed)

Few law firms have the staff and resources to pull together data of this scale and type. Firms that do business without such data risk having an unclear picture of their own performance. Furthermore, a firm that operates without this information can only guess at the level of performance its litigation support services provider delivers.

That is why it is essential to have access to these data sets at regular intervals—monthly and/or quarterly. Doing so keeps the strategic partnership strong by proving the provider’s performance to the law firm and proving the value of the law firm to the provider.

But big picture accountability is about more than just hard data. It’s also about who has your back.

When things go wrong it’s critical to have access to someone inside the provider’s organization who can address your concerns. It’s never a good sign when a vendor responds to your problems with silence or indifference. Seeing first-hand how a potential partner responds to a problem is the best barometer to discover whether a provider will be responsive to your needs or let you twist in the wind.

Fortunately, you don’t need to wait for a bona fide crisis to find out whether your provider is strategic partner material. The simple solution is to “ask around.”

Actively reach out to other firms to investigate the vendor’s track record and find out what their experience has been. Reaching out to your personal and professional networks may also bring you important perspective from people who have worked hands-on with a provider.

Make this inquiry even more complete by asking the provider for their performance metric reports.

Innovation

All law firms seek a competitive advantage. But it’s almost a sure bet that trying to gain that advantage from a vendor that follows the crowd will lead to disappointment. The best way to get that advantage, and to think differently about how a litigation support services provider can improve your strategic position, is to partner with one that is an innovator.

A partner that is an innovator will help provide a law firm first-to-market access that keeps you ahead of your competitors. Perhaps the best example of this is law firms that use court eFiling. It’s critical for these firms to have access to the greatest number of courts where eFiling is accepted–and not all litigation support service providers offer that.

Some providers will offer eFiling in just a few courts while others may offer it in many courts, or even most courts. However, a litigation support service provider that has the right stuff to be your strategic partner will provide electronic filing in every court where eFiling is allowed.

That may sound like a high bar, but it’s one that a true innovator meets by creating a proprietary file + serve technology platform that provides this level of access to its partners.

It is also the gold standard that other litigation support service providers continually chase.

CASE STUDY

Thinking Differently to Improve Cost Control and Gain Efficiencies

The good news for a Los Angeles-based, lemon law firm, was that the firm was experiencing record growth. The bad news was that hundreds of invoices suddenly washed in each day, choking the firm’s ability to accurately track, reconcile, and account for the fees and expenses that would be reimbursed at the conclusion of each case.

The overwhelming amount of manual effort required to manage these expenses also invited a significant risk of human error in tracking and reconciling them. And, without automated cost controls and visibility, the law firm was running the risk of not properly associating vendor expenses with fee motions in cases.

The solution: Think differently.

To cope with the situation the law firm looked to its litigation support services provider, Rapid Legal, as a strategic ally. It asked its provider to help find a way out and Rapid Legal welcomed the opportunity.

Drawing on its deep domain experience and industry expertise, Rapid Legal found common ground with the lemon law firm that was key to the solution: Both organizations used Salesforce.

Rapid Legal and the law firm quickly joined forces to implement a Salesforce-to-Salesforce integration. The scope of the operation entailed transferring Rapid Legal order and payment details daily from its Salesforce instance to the law firm’s own Salesforce system.

The law firm’s chief financial officer (CFO) explained the importance of Rapid Legal’s solution.

“It allowed the data and records to be automatically deposited into the firm’s system seamlessly,” the CFO says. He explains that the firm also set up a dashboard in Salesforce that provides the staff with insights into the various litigation services and related expenses.

“I used to have the equivalent of one full-time employee reconciling invoices and expenses for fee motions,” the CFO says. “Now, however, our law firm is nearly in a position to reallocate those resources to activities that will deliver greater value to the firm and its clients.”

Positive change from the inside

If what you and your litigation support services provider are doing right now isn’t strengthening your law firm’s competitive position, it’s time to start thinking differently about how to make that happen. Instead of trying to boost the bottom line by simply taking more cases, there are ways to strengthen your financial footing from within the firm.

This important change in mindset begins by questioning the status quo. Here are a few questions you can ask to get that process started, and help you change the way you see and use your litigation support services provider:

  • Can this vendor help me improve my cash flow?
  • How can this vendor help me track the firm’s performance?
  • Can this vendor show the firm where it’s losing money?
  • Can this vendor show the firm where it’s saving money?
  • What can this vendor do to help me manage change?

Perception is everything

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” This statement from best-selling author, Wayne W. Dyer, EdD, challenges us to see the full potential in the tools, processes, and people around us. It is also instructive at a time when technology is driving transformation throughout the legal profession, and worth keeping in mind as you continue to look for a competitive edge.

Change is happening throughout the courts and legal profession, but change creates an ideal environment in which to think differently about how law firms and their litigation support providers influence each other’s growth. Make sure you’re prepared to thrive in that environment with clarity about your partners, your technology, and your firm’s position in the market.

And, whatever you do, don’t be Kodak.

A consultation with a Rapid Legal account executive will change the way you look at litigation support service providers today. Book a demo or schedule a call now. https://calendly.com/rapidlegal


The Complete Beginner’s Guide to eFiling in 2021 and Beyond

For nearly a decade, a major change has been driving through the California court system transforming litigation support services for the better: the transition to civil eFiling. But that change didn’t hit the tipping point until one of the largest court systems in the world, Los Angeles Superior Court, started migrating to eFiling in December 2018.

For the legal professional who needs to keep up with the new eFiling changes or wants to ramp up their eFiling savviness, this step-by-step guide teaches everything you need to know for eFiling in 2021 and beyond.

Table of Contents


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What is eFiling?

Let’s begin the eFiling journey by understanding what eFiling is, and how the courts define the role of an electronic filing service provider (EFSP).

The 2021 California Rules of the Court defines eFiling this way:

The electronic transmission to a court of a document in electronic form.”

And, this is how the court rules define, “electronic filing service provider”:

An ‘electronic filing service provider’ is a person or entity that receives an electronic filing from a party or other person for retransmission to the court or for electronic service on other parties or other persons, or both.”

The electronic filing service provider (EFSP) submits filings on behalf of the electronic filer. The EFSP is not acting as an agent of the court.

When a court decides to accept electronic filing, it may implement it in different ways. Sometimes a court initially begins with permissive eFiling, and later makes it mandatory, or vice versa. Other courts can start with permissive or mandatory for certain case types and then add other case types later as voluntary or involuntary.

If you’re unsure about the differences between mandatory and permissive as they apply to electronic filing, here is how the California court defines each type.

Permissive electronic filing by local rule

“A court may permit parties by local rule to file documents electronically in any types of cases, subject to the conditions in Code of Civil Procedure section 1010.6 and the rules in this chapter.” (From 2021 California Rules of Court, Rule 2.253.)

Mandatory electronic filing by local rule

“A court may require parties by local rule to electronically file documents in civil actions directly with the court, or directly with the court and through one or more approved electronic filing service providers, or through more than one approved electronic filing service provider…” (Complete conditions and rules for mandatory eFililng appear under Rule 2.253 of the 2021 California Rules of Court.)

Don’t let the e’s confuse you

It’s an E, E, E, E world out there, thanks to a workplace saturated with technology. That is not a problem for the most part, since technology is the rainmaker of efficiency.

However, technology can muddy the terminology that is used for electronic filing. One of the biggest perpetrators of this confusion is the letter “e”, which is popularly used as a prefix for invented words.

There are at least three “e”-prefixed words in the electronic file and serve lexicon that, at first glance, may seem related. In fact, they refer to very different processes used by various courts and cannot be used interchangeably.

Here are three terms you should learn to distinguish before you move to an eFiling workflow.

e” Term What it means
eFiling The electronic transmission to a court of a document in electronic form.
eService A method of electronically notifying parties about a document that has been filed or submitted. eService allows all the documents that need to move back and forth between the parties or their counsel to flow electronically.
eDelivery/eSubmit A platform – or web portal – that allows parties to submit electronic (PDF) versions of documents in place of the original directly to individual courts. eDelivery is not fully integrated or automated, and requires a court clerk to manually input into court case management system

If you want even more clarification about these terms, a chart in the article Did You Know? eFiling vs. eDelivery and eSubmit Are NOT the Same! explains the differences in depth. You can also use the chart as a reference to see at-a-glance which California courts offer eFiling, eDelivery/eSubmit and physical filing.

Why eFiling Affects You

Since eFiling began in California courts during the early 2000s, it has charted a steady path upward. This one-way growth suggests that sooner or later, eFiling will become the law of the land.

If that seems dubious, consider a few statistics:

There are 58 trial courts in California; one for each county. As of fall 2021, eFiling became mandatory or permissive in 26 California Superior Courts, making it part of the workflow for law firms in more than 44% of the state’s counties. Electronic filing is accepted in areas with the largest concentrations of people and businesses in the Golden State, including Los Angeles Superior Court, which is the largest trial court in the United States.

Outside of Los Angeles, cases are filed electronically in Superior Courts in San Francisco, San Diego, Riverside, and Orange County, plus many more.

Based on the current numbers, it could be said there are two types of law firms in California: Those that currently use eFiling, and those that soon will be.

 

Now What? How to Shop for an eFiling Service Provider (EFSP)

Don’t wait until the first day eFiling is required to find an EFSP. This is especially true for firms that are new to electronic filing. An experienced and qualified EFSP can act as your wing man through the startup process and help you avoid mistakes and delays that are common among first-time eFilers.

How do you recognize this vendor? There are five categories you should consider as you conduct vendor interviews:

  • Scope of service
  • Performance and productivity
  • Domain knowledge and expertise
  • Performance metrics
  • References

Here is how to use each category to guide your discussions:

Scope of service: The first thing to look for is a vendor that files into all the California courts that have eFiling available. That means all of them. Not a few, not some, not even most. You need a vendor that files with 100% of the California courts that accept eFiling. That way, you and your team don’t have to manage several vendors and systems to eFile into courts. (Those courts are listed here.)

You’ll also want to know whether the vendor you’re interviewing offers other critical litigation support services and has a well-documented performance and acceptance rate with the courts.

Performance and productivity: Does the vendor offer eFiling through a portal, application programming interface (API) or both? The right partner should offer both because that gives it the greatest extensibility and flexibility to integrate with other computer applications like practice management systems and more.

Your vendor should also tell you whether court-stamped documents are returned quickly and reliably, and whether it makes custom reports and analytics available.

Domain knowledge and court filing expertise: Any vendor can say they have experience. That’s an easy claim. What you need to know from a vendor that wants to be your preferred provider, though, is the level of experience that vendor has with eFiling and/or physical filing throughout the California court system.

You’ll also want to ask about customer support options and additional litigation support services the vendor offers.

How are you able to reach the vendor? Via phone? Email? Chat? All three? The ideal partner will offer multiple means of communication to reach them. And keep in mind, a vendor that doesn’t have a portal that provides a single point of access to all courts and multiple court services is probably not a vendor that will serve you well.

Performance metrics: What turnaround times are offered by each prospective vendor partner? This is important information to understand because it will give you an idea about how efficiently and effectively the vendor can execute its services for you. Likewise, before you make a decision, each vendor should provide its eFilling success rates, user behavior, and order data.

References: Track records matter. Reputation matters. What courts say about an EFSP certainly matters. As you interview potential vendors, be sure to ask them for court and customer references to contact.


Free Download: Access the EFSP Checklist Now


Are Multiple Vendors Better Than One?

What happens if you find more than one vendor that you like? Or, does it make better business sense to work with a single, preferred EFSP or multiple EFSPs?

You’re not the first law firm to face this dilemma.

Traditional supply chain wisdom has favored the multiple vendor model for its redundancy and backup. Those reasons were not unsound in the 20th century, but this is the 21st century and the product in question is not a widget or commodity.

Single, Preferred Vendor Advantages

Pricing Discounts: From a strategic standpoint, amplifying spend not only places you in a stronger position to ask for volume discounts, but it also makes it more likely you’ll receive additional perks such as hands-on, personalized customer care, or first access to new technologies.

But why restrict pricing discounts to eFiling only? If the volume of your work is spread among several different services, you expand the number of services on which you may receive pricing discounts, such as process service, document retrieval, courtesy copy delivery, county recording, and more

More Time for Billable Tasks: Billable hours are the lifeblood of any law firm and every minute that staff members spend on overhead tasks drives up the cost of doing business. Over time, a law firm may lose significant amounts of billable hours to activities associated with the multiple vendor model.

What cuts into billable hours?

  • Conducting multiple vendor interviews
  • Soliciting bids
  • Learning a new vendor’s systems
  • Managing multiple vendors
  • Monitoring the quality of work from several sources

It’s also a fact that when support staff train on only one vendor’s system and repeat those tasks many times, each staff member becomes more efficient, creating greater bandwidth for billable tasks.

Visualize Better Performance through Partnership: When you choose to work with a vendor who sees you as a true partner, you unlock the potential for system-to-system integrations that will save you even more time and money.

How much more? The answer depends on your needs and creativity, but here is an example: You make reconciling invoices and expenses for fee motions so efficient that it saves the cost of one full-time employee. Find out more about this benefit in How Law Firms Can Get Better eFiling Pricing and Service with a Single, Preferred Vendor.

Know the Rules Before You eFile

Every California county’s court eFiling rules are different, and those who eFile without knowing those rules does so at their peril.

To vastly improve your eFiling’s chances of success, simply check your county’s rules. Other resources and useful court links can be found here.

If you don’t know the rules, there is a good chance your eFiling may be rejected by the court. In this next section, find out how to reduce the likelihood that your future eFilings will be rejected, and what you can do if it happens to you.


Learn the Rules

There is no “grey area” when it comes to electronic filing in California civil court. Make your eFiling rejection-resistant before you submit your first order by reading, Strict eFiling Requirements Enforcement and What it Means for You.


What if My eFiling is Rejected?

You’ve been rejected. It’s not the end of the world, but it may be the end of your relationship with your client.

About 1 in 10 electronic filings can be rejected by the court. When eFilings are rejected, they may cause a statutory deadline to be missed or jeopardize a case in another way, creating an unfortunate domino effect that ends with your client finding another law firm.

Here are the common reasons a court may reject an eFiling:

  • Party’s name does not match the name listed on the initial lead document
  • Incorrect case type has been selected
  • Incorrect document type has been selected
  • Wrong case number has been listed somewhere on the filing
  • Wrong court location has been selected

Issues with the filing itself, like uploading the wrong filing, submitting the filing in the wrong format, having the wrong name on the saved filing, improper scanning, or not including the required attachments.

So, it’s probably not surprising that eFiling rejection rates hover between 10-15%, depending on the court. That equates to 1 – 1.5 out of 10 court eFilings being rejected! What can be done?

To minimize eFiling rejections, Rapid Legal created two solutions – Expert Review and Concierge Service. Both can help assure greater success across your eFiling initiative and may be especially useful for very complex cases or cases for your clients who demand the highest level of accuracy.

Where electronic filing is concerned, the best way to manage rejections is to prevent them from ever happening. That may sound like a tall ask, but it’s easier than you may think.

How to avoid a court filing rejection at the court:

Triple-check everything.

It’s always a good habit to double-check your work. Is that enough? Usually yes, but when it comes to court documents, you should always take the time to give them one last review before sending them to be filed. That last review can be crucial in catching a wrongly dated form or a missing signature, even an out-of-date Proof of Service. When you’ve finished filling in a form or titling a document, check it. When it looks good, check it again. Before sending it, check it one more time. Your client, your case or your reputation could depend on it.

Sign and date everything.

This might sound self-explanatory, but a missing signature is a surefire way to have your documents rejected by the court. Even if the window clerk misses it, you can bet the clerk of the department won’t. This is a very common pitfall for court rejections. Consider yourself warned (wink).

Be understanding of the clerks.

The clerks hold the ultimate power. They can decide whether to file your documents simply based on the kind of day they’re having. Okay, not all clerks are mean or spiteful, but like everyone, they don’t like to do extra work for a bunch of random individuals bugging them while they attempt to get their work done. Do you? Every time you must ask a clerk in the department to schedule a hearing date, approve a date or to argue a rejection, that’s extra work for them and they hate it. So always treat them with respect and be courteous – hello, have a nice day, thank you – it all goes a long way.

Know what you’re filing.

Not every document should be treated the same. A Request for Dismissal may be okay to leave at the window, but a Stipulation and Order might need to go to a specific department. These documents might be similar, but they are not the same. Know where they go. You don’t want to waste your time or the clerk’s time by getting in the wrong line or having your documents sent to the wrong place.

Know the local rules.

Many documents may look the same with very similar sounding titles but that doesn’t mean they are treated the same. Said another way, not all documents are created equal. There may be a specific document that requires having a hearing set by the department clerk before filing or a fee that needs to be paid before being received and filed later. Some courts may require a specific cover page to be filed with all new cases. If you aren’t sure about what’s required, court websites have plenty of information regarding filings. Also, if you need a specific form, they usually have them available on their website or they’re just a simple Google search away.

Avoid PDF Peril

Don’t make the rookie mistake of submitting electronic documents in the wrong format. This is particularly important for Portable Document Format (PDF) files.

Before you eFile, check the local court’s rules about saving Portable Document Format (PDF) docs in a text-searchable format. Also, find out if you need to create your PDFs with a specific application such as Adobe Acrobat Version 7 (or higher).

You’ll increase your chances of eFiling success and reduce the likelihood of missing a time-sensitive court deadline.

Who’s Who in eFiling

There are many key stakeholders that are involved in the submission, transmission and completion of California court eFilings. As a certified Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP) for 26 California courts and counting, we examine the main stakeholders of the California Court eFiling system. Who are the players? What are their roles? And why are they important?

Key Stakeholder 1: The eFiling User

An eFiling user is a user of the eFile case’s Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP) and typically places an order and/or submits the case. This person may be the case initiator or the point of contact throughout the life of the case. There could be many eFiling Users for one case. Examples of an eFiling user include Paralegal, Office administrator, Attorney, Secretary, Pro-pers, EFSP Operations user, EFSP customer, court runner, field agent, and more.

Stakeholder 2: Case Participants

A case will consist of case participants which are people, businesses, or organizations involved in the case. This usually consists of a plaintiff (a person who brings a case against another in a court of law) and a defendant (in a civil suit, the person complained against; in a criminal case the person accused of the crime).

Stakeholder 3: Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP)

As mentioned above, an eFiling user places an order via an Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP), which is a company whose online portal has been certified to transmit documents to a court via an integration with an Electronic Filing Manager (EFM), such as Tyler or Journal Technologies (JTI). In addition to providing eFiling services, an EFSP also typically provides value-added services, training, and support to eFiling users.

As a certified Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP) for more than 20 courts, Rapid Legal’s technology is integrated with various court Electronic Filing Managers (EFM). These integrations enable filers to electronically file documents directly with the Court through Rapid Legal’s portal.


Credibility by the Numbers

Nothing speaks to an EFSP’s experience and performance like numbers. These data points explain why Rapid Legal has a reputation for excellence among legal professionals.

1,000,000

More than 1 Million Orders Placed

2,000,000

More than 2 Million Documents Processed

10,000

More than 10,000 Customers Served Nationwide

 


Stakeholder 4: Technology Provider of Electronic Filing Manager (EFM) Software

Next, the Electronic Filing Manager (EFM) acts as an intermediate system on the Court’s side. This is the system that receives the filings and processes them for the court clerks to view and manage. The EFM connects to the court’s Case Management System (CMS). All courts must use an EFM to manage their backend system.

Click here to view our handy guide that outlines which Court uses which EFM, whether it is mandatory or permissive, case types for eFiling, and associated costs.

Stakeholder 5: The Court and Case Management System (CMS)

Lastly, the stage following the EFM is the Court’s Case Management System (CMS). This is the Court’s backend system that automates court processes, monitors case activities, and supports decision-making through the use of real-time data and analytics. A case management system consolidates and maintains all the information that is pertinent to a case. Users of the court’s CMS include personnel such as clerks, judicial officers, and judges.

 

Measure Your eFiling Efforts

Use data to set benchmarks and know whether your new eFiling workflow is performing up to its potential. This is where it pays to become a Rapid Legal power user because you can integrate your law firm’s systems with Rapid Legal’s system to transfer data and see what’s working, what isn’t, and where to optimize.

Sharable data can also be used to create strategic business reports. These reports provide detailed views of orders placed through the portal. At a glance, users can see which types of orders contribute positively to the firm’s bottom line and which types compromise it.

This data allows you to course-correct by setting up cost control measures if needed. Likewise, you can use them to monitor throughput, detect trends, and analyze your firm’s and the vendor’s performance.

Two important measures you can make are Service Level Distribution and Orders by Type.

Service level distribution helps you determine whether you are paying for the most expensive level of service when the least expensive service meets your needs? Use this data to analyze the service you’re buying and make sure it’s the service you need.

Orders by type takes the guesswork out of locating where the greatest volume of your work lies. Is it eFiling, service of process, or something else? Review the data and then decide whether to adjust.

Learn more about how to use sharable data in this technology-focused article on the Rapid Legal blog.

 

Prepare to Launch

Now that you have a clear view of the eFiling landscape, you’re in an excellent position to manage the launch of your own law firm’s eFiling initiative. By reading this article you’ve learned how to interview a vendor, overcome rejection, and measure the success of your efforts. The next step is to contact a qualified EFSP and find out how they can help set up your office’s eFiling workflow.

Take that step now by contacting Rapid Legal. We file electronically into the most courts in California and operate on a technology platform that sets the standard for speed and reliability in the industry.

That’s not just talk. Rapid Legal guarantees your satisfaction: If service is not done right, it’s free.

Book a demo or schedule a call with a team member. Get a close-up view of the Rapid Legal portal and how to set up eFiling in your office’s workflow.


A Complete Checklist for Selecting a Certified eFiling Service Provider

When interviewing a new electronic filing service provider (EFSP) you want to cut through the hype, collect credible information, and find the best match for your firm. These questions will help in your decision-making process to evaluate any organization that wants to be a preferred vendor for your eFiling services.

 

Free Download: [Access Checklist Now]

 

#1: Scope of service

  • How many California counties and courts does the EFSP serve with its court eFiling solution? It is far more productive and cost-effective to use an EFSP that eFiles into all California eFiling courts, not just some.
  • Does the provider offer additional litigation services such as courtesy copy delivery and service of process?
  • Does the EFSP have a well-documented performance and acceptance rate with the courts?

 

#2: Performance and productivity

  • How many ways does the vendor deploy its eFiling and other litigation support services; through a portal, application programming interface (API) or both?
  • If using the EFSP’s portal, is it user friendly and does it provide instant access to all the eFiling courts?
  • Are court-stamped documents returned quickly and reliably? What about custom reports and analytics?
  • Can the EFSP’s eFiling platform integrate with a law firm’s practice management system? Can the vendor provide interoperability with a law firm’s accounting systems to automate eFiling spend and reconciliation, and reduce manual record keeping?

 

#3: Domain knowledge and court filing expertise

  • How much experience does the EFSP have in the California court system with eFiling and physical court services?
  • What is the provider’s level of expertise and service offerings through its portal with courtesy copy delivery, document retrieval, service of process, and other related services?
  • What customer support options does the provider offer? Is phone, chatbot, and other online options available?

 

#4: Performance metrics

  • Does the EFSP provide performance metrics such as eFiling turnaround times for the various courts? Other important metrics include eFiling success rates, user behavior, and order data. Ask if they are available for review.
  • Can the provider benchmark its acceptance rates and rejection rates against the rest of the industry?
  • Your staff will perform routine work in submitting each eFiling order. Can the provider explain how that work is distributed across your law firm so you can assess efficiencies and productivity?

 

#5: References

  • What is the eFiling service provider’s track record and history working with the courts?
  • What do the courts say about this provider? Does it have references from the courts they work with?
  • Does the EFSP have references from any of the courts’ electronic filing managers (EFM) vendors that integrate with the EFSP’s offering? These are companies that provide the actual efiling systems and court case management systems to the courts, so the vendor you select should have excellent relationships with them.

 

Let’s get started.

Rapid Legal has high marks in all these areas. Interested in evaluating us? Book a demo or create an account today.


Technology Your Process Server Should Be Using

Technology Your Process Server Should Be Using

Technology Your Process Server Should Be Using

When you get right down to it prime rib and pomme fondant are just high-performing meat and potatoes that use technology to live up to their potential. Within the legal profession few things say “meat and potatoes” more than service of process. It may not be sexy but if you wrap service of process around an innovative technology platform it becomes a cost-cutting engine that improves performance on every single order.

If you want this kind of power in your service of process but don’t know where to begin, this article will help you reach your destination.

This is your starting point.

Black’s Law Dictionary offers a colorless definition of service of process that somehow overlooks the utterly ripped engineering muscle behind technology-enabled service of process:

The term for the delivery of a summons, writ or subpoena to the opposing party in a lawsuit.

That definition misses two critical factors that differentiate technology-enabled service of process orders in the present day: Online execution and sharable data.

Online execution singlehandedly pulled service of process into the 21st century for many law firms. This happened when software engineers developed an electronic portal that allows many types of litigation support services to be performed from a single access point.

The portal made service of process more convenient to order and more efficient to track and complete, while extending those same advantages to eFiling, physical court filings, courtesy copy retrieval, document retrieval, skip tracing and more. The portal allows the user to submit, manage, track, and execute each order right from the desktop. It doesn’t change the fact that service of process still has to be effected physically but that’s a story for another day, or article.


5% growth in 3 years

Technology spreads financial optimism. A majority of corporate CIOs surveyed believe digitally empowered employees can drive a revenue increase of 5% over 3 years, according to Forbes Insights.

What are you waiting for?


The technology behind electronically submitted service of process orders is also a boon to long-term law firm strategy because it makes data about process service orders in your vendor’s system shareable with your own systems. As a result, information about billing, court fees, vendor fees, and payments, is available at your fingertips.

If you’re unclear about how sharing this data positively impacts the bottom line, think of it this way: For each case, every transaction receipt and every document can be stored in a law firm’s own system. This means fees and payments can be easily accounted for and reimbursed when the case ends, dramatically collapsing the time needed to reconcile expenses.

A portal also allows the vendor to manage and efficiently track the performance of its affiliate network in executing the serve. This, in turn, builds an extremely high level of accountability felt all along the service of process supply chain.

The portal also creates two other important advantages to improve SOP efficiency: it eliminates paper controls and allows the server to eSign the proof of service.

From a high-level view, vendors that have this portal/technology are typically able to provide superior service because they can further leverage their internal expertise, reduce errors, provide more timely updates, and better prioritize each order. Though the technology behind the portal may be invisible to the law firm, the positive effect it has on the vendor’s performance will be easy to spot in orders that are cost-efficient and have lower rejection rates.

An early warning system

Sharable data can also be used to create strategic reports. These reports provide detailed views of service of process orders and the vendor’s execution thereof, as well as other order types placed through the portal. At a glance, users can see which types of orders contribute positively to the firm’s bottom line and which types compromise it.

This data allows you to course-correct by setting up cost control measures if needed. Likewise, you can use them to monitor throughput, detect trends, and analyze your firm’s and the vendor’s performance.

Most law firms aren’t equipped to gather this type of business intelligence easily on their own. However, gathering this data from a vendor whose technology allows them to share it is simple, and takes only a fraction of the time and money required for a staff member to develop the same reports in-house.

Here are four examples of how you can use sharable data in your firm’s business strategy:

Service level distribution: Are you paying for the most expensive level of service when the least expensive service meets your needs? Data in this report track process serving orders by service level, so you can analyze the service you’re buying and make sure it’s the service you actually need.

Orders by type: Stop guessing. Find out for certain how and where the greatest volume of your work lies. Is it eFiling, service of process, or something else? Review the data and then decide whether to make adjustments to your firm’s resources or reset customer expectations.

Service of process orders by pricing zone: An easy-to-read pie chart identifies the areas where your service of process orders are being delivered. Use this data to determine how much you’re spending on costly deliveries to remote areas compared to less expensive urban areas. The answer can keep you from losing money on serves done in those outlying areas.

Service of process performance: Clients care about your scoreboard. If you use your success rate with documents served and proofs of service to help sell your firm, these numbers will back you up nicely.

 

Next-level productivity? Just push play

Most industries adopt technology to improve accuracy or increase efficiency. Law firms can use technology to improve both of those dimensions by managing their online service of process orders with the same ease as orders that require boots on the ground.

It happens like this:

  • A law firm staff member uses the portal to do the physical filing, and in the same workflow creates the service of process. The vendor’s staff—not the law firm staff—manages the dependencies.
  • The vendor staff waits until the conformed copy is returned by the court before dispatching the serve order.
  • The vendor receives the proof, files it, and the SOP is then really complete.

A significant portion of this entire process is shifted to the vendor, which frees up more billable hours among law firm staff. If your firm does a significant volume of work, the amount of time this approach will save tallies up quickly.


17%

Saving time is a common aim for most law firms. The time employees spend on manual processes drops by 17% among firms that make business software available and accessible to its workers.

Technology boosts efficiency.


What you want in a vendor

Using a litigation support services vendor with a great tech stack is an excellent way for law firms to strengthen their performance. To help you start your search on the right foot we’ve put together a few helpful tips.

First, look for a vendor that provides an online portal from which you can manage and measure every litigation support service order you place.

Not just service of process, but eFiling, physical court filing, expert document review, skip tracing, and others.

Second, you’ll want to know your firm’s rejection rate. A good benchmark to measure their performance is to look for a court filing success rate approaching 90%. When you find a vendor that has one or more clients doing more than 1,000 filings a month and a 95% acceptance rate, you’re wise to sit down and have a serious conversation about service of process too.

Get to know eService

When vendors begin to jockey for a coveted position as your preferred vendor, the third thing you should ask about is eService. Not to be confused with the similar term, “electronic service of process,” eService refers to a method of electronically notifying parties about a document that has been filed or submitted.

Here’s an easy way to understand how eService works and the benefits it provides.

Once the primary papers of a case have been served, eService allows all the documents that need to move back and forth between the parties or their counsel to flow electronically. No more couriers or loose papers. Once litigation gets underway, the court simply provides email addresses where documents can be sent, then—using eService notification—a notice is sent to the other party or their counsel.

More law firms are demanding eService because it fits seamlessly with electronic workflows that execute court filings, perform order tracking, provide SOP, and proofs of service from one portal. The automated email notices help make sure critical notifications don’t fall between the cracks. Also, where eFiling is mandatory, eService is also. Parties can agree to use eService in other circumstances.

If you’re still unclear about how to differentiate the crowded field of services that begin with “e,” you can lift the fog by reading Did You Know? eFiling vs. eDelivery and eSubmit are NOT the Same! in only 5 short minutes.

Start your vendor search now.

Build out your interview questions with this article written specifically for legal professionals:

What to Look for When Hiring a Process Serving Company

 

Partnership + Platform = Possibilities

By default, your vendor’s innovation becomes your innovation, so it’s in your best interest to find a company that uses a best-of-breed technology platform. When you’re interviewing vendors be sure to ask about the platform they use for service of process, and be specific.

For example, you may want a portal that allows you to handle the full spectrum of physical and electronic services, in addition to expert document review and document retrieval. If more than one vendor appears to offer this service, focus on the one that has an established track record of providing timely and accurate services, and has a platform that can integrate with law firm systems to easily enable data sharing.

It’s also in your best interest to use a vendor whose portal is protected by bank grade security and whose technology platform is accepted by the greatest number of courts in California.

If your selection process begins to bog down, narrow your search only to vendors that can create synergies that give both sides a win. To see an example of these synergies in action check out this article on our blog. You’ll discover how a leading law firm and litigation support services vendor lift each to higher levels of performance, simply by taking advantage of a technology platform and thinking creatively. If a vendor can’t provide this type of responsiveness, find one that can.

Set yourself up for service of process success with careful preparation. Understand your own needs, qualify a vendor whose technology meets those needs, and keep in mind that the point of a strategic partnership is not to do all the work yourself, but to know how to get the work done.

Service of process isn’t rocket science, but it is meat and potatoes that the court system can’t live without. Make sure yours is cooked? Prepared? to perfection.

Wheels Still Turning?

Our sales team can help you find more ways to make service of process an efficiency engine for your law firm. Book a demo or schedule a call with a Rapid Legal team member to learn how the full scope of Rapid Legal’s portal capabilities can work for you.


How Law Firms Can Get Better eFiling Pricing and Service with a Single, Preferred Provider

It might sound counter-intuitive because competition and using multiple vendors drives down prices for customers, right? Think again.

We didn’t invent the supply chain, but we’d like to settle an important question about it: For eFiling services are you better off using a single, preferred vendor or multiple vendors?

The question is as old as supply chains themselves and the answer may be a simple one in many industries, but in the world of law firms the choice is more complicated. Law firms stand apart from other industries because of the complexities that permeate legal processes. Likewise, those intricacies transfer to the eFiling “supply chain”.

Selecting a good eFiling service provider is a critical decision for law firms. A poor-performing vendor can rob a firm of precious time and money as well as damage its reputation.

 

79%

­Percentage of organizations that achieve significantly above-average revenue growth because of superior supply chain capabilities.

 

Good vendors are good for growth.

To help guide you toward the right choice we’ve created a short list of advantages for the two models you’ll want to compare. First is the single, preferred vendor model, in which a firm selects one vendor from among many that provide similar services. Second is the multiple vendor model, in which a firm selects two or more vendors that provide similar services. As you learn about these models, consider how each one complements your firm’s business goals.

 

Single, Preferred Vendor Advantages

Pricing Discounts

Strategic buyers spend to win, and they know that getting discounted prices on eFiling services helps achieve success. When a law firm spreads its dollars among multiple vendors, it can make volume-based discounts difficult to earn. In contrast, directing that spend to a single, preferred vendor substantially increases your firm’s value and makes it more likely that vendor will offer you a volume discount.

From a strategic standpoint, amplifying spend not only places you in a stronger position to ask for volume discounts, but it also makes it more likely you’ll receive additional perks such as hands-on, personalized customer care, or first access to new technologies.

But why restrict pricing discounts to eFiling? A normal business day for your firm probably includes process service, document retrieval, courtesy copy delivery, county recording, and more. Finding and using a single, preferred vendor who excels across the board in litigation support enables you to manage many services easily from one account.

And, more importantly, because of the volume of your work is spread among several different services, you expand the number of services on which you may receive pricing discounts.

More Time for Billable Tasks

Billable hours are the lifeblood of any law firm and every minute that staff members spend on overhead tasks drives up the cost of doing business. Over time, a law firm may lose significant amounts of billable hours to activities associated with the multiple vendor model. Those activities include time spent managing vendors, inefficient communication, system incompatibilities that hinder integration, and monitoring the quality of work from several sources.

There are also short-term and startup activities that cut into billable hours such as conducting vendor interviews, soliciting bids, and learning a new vendor’s systems. Using a single, preferred vendor model dramatically reduces billable hours lost to these activities.

Another important advantage to working with a single vendor is that litigation support staff train only once on a vendor’s system and can repeat those tasks many times. This makes each staff member more efficient, and thus, productive over the long run improving the firm’s return on investment.

Many firms may also find it difficult to reconcile billing with multiple vendors, which will drain billable time from staff, in addition to time lost to managing the operational details of each vendor relationship.

Visualize Better Performance through Partnership

Selecting a single, preferred vendor means both the firm and the vendor commit for the long term – participating in a true partnership. That commitment provides an incentive for the vendor to optimize every aspect of the customer’s experience, from the online portal interface to customer support and billing. And, when you choose to work with a vendor who sees you as a true partner, you unlock the potential for system-to-system integrations that will save you even more time and money.

How much more? The answer depends on your needs and creativity, but here is an example: You make reconciling invoices and expenses for fee motions so efficient that it saves the cost of one full-time employee.

How is that possible? One way is to pull data directly from your single, preferred vendor’s litigation support services platform directly to your own law firm’s system. If you’re using a multiple vendor model chances are slim those types of synergies will be offered to you.

eFiling is just one point on the compass where the benefits of a single, preferred vendor partnership begin. Firms can use this relationship to automate workflows, automate cost control and visibility, eliminate data duplication of entry, and improve many different business outcomes.

The net result for your firm is a consistent level of service, quality, and favorable costs that set up your own clients for a high level of satisfaction. If you have a vision for improved performance across the board, this model can help make it real.

 

Benefits of Using Multiple Vendors

There is a lot to like about partnering with a single, highly efficient vendor, but there are also distinct advantages to working with multiple vendors. Here are three that deserve a close look.

Safety Net for Your Work

Service disruptions lurk in the shadows of every industry and tend to appear when you least expect them. Natural disasters, power outages, and ransomware attacks are just a few examples of events that can at least temporarily bring your eFiling vendor’s productivity to a screeching halt.

Using multiple vendors for eFiling can minimize the risk of service disruptions by enabling a law firm to transfer its work from one vendor to another. This can be helpful not only as a response to a hurricane or ransomware attack but in the more likely event that a vendor’s service, quality, or performance falters and threatens your eFiling supply chain.

While having multiple vendors spreads out the risk of service disruption, it’s important to ask yourself which is more probable: a disruption caused by a force of nature, technology breakdowns, or a business closing shop? If you have a single eFiling vendor whose services are web-enabled and operate in the cloud, chances are your eFiling will continue uninterrupted regardless of the weather or server-side attacks.

Get a Better Bargain

Pitting rivals against each other is a time-tested business strategy that has survived simply because it works. When several vendors know they are competing for your firm’s business, each one must offer a compelling reason for you to choose its brand. Many times, that reason is price, and a vendor that offers a favorable price likewise offers you a tool you can use to drive a competitor’s price lower.

In the long run, however, this strategy may backfire if a vendor that delivers jaw-dropping low prices in the beginning becomes complacent and allows those prices to rise—or allows its quality to slip. It’s important to monitor price-driven deals over time to make sure the quality and value of service remain consistent.

Give Yourself Room to Move

In the same way that multiple freeway lanes help smooth the flow of traffic, stacking your supply chain with multiple vendors safeguards against bottlenecks. Protecting against jammed workflows is especially important for eFiling but it is also vital for litigation support services that may require human intervention, such as expert document review, process serving, or skip tracing.

For these types of tasks, the multiple vendor model provides a built-in safety valve that allows firms to simply shift work from the underperforming vendor to an alternate vendor. This is done without jeopardizing capacity, and the transition is undetectable to the law firm’s clients. Such a move may, however, may force you to use eFiling providers that are difficult for you to manage or do not offer data you can use to benchmark their services.

 

Best of Both Worlds

Firms that like the flexibility of multiple vendors but also want the reduced administrative costs and potential volume price incentives of a single vendor may find a middle ground by using a single, preferred vendor that excels in several areas. This “best of both worlds” scenario may be attainable from a single provider that has an established history you can confirm independently.

So, how do you make those confirmations? It’s simple; just ask the vendor and its current clients about the following:

  • How many courts does the vendor eFile with directly?
  • Can you place multiple order types though a common workflow?
  • Does the vendor have a high eFiling court acceptance rate?
  • What is the vendor’s accuracy of service?
  • Does the vendor have world-class hosting capability that offers scale, performance, security, and compliance?

If you need even greater assurance that a single eFiling vendor can provide the reliability you need, look for one that offers a satisfaction guarantee. A vendor confident enough to say, “If service is not done right, it’s free,” is a vendor that takes client satisfaction seriously.

 

First Time eFiling? Download This Guide

The transition from traditional paper filing to electronic filing is easier than you think. Download our eFiling Beginner’s Guide to learn:

  • How eFiling Works
  • How to Prepare for eFiling
  • How to meet court eFiling requirements

It is recommended for eFiling beginners as well as those with experience.

 

Your Choice in a Nutshell

At the end of the day, the best way to understand which vendor is right for you is to clearly understand your own firm’s needs. Then, determine which vendor can fulfill those needs at a sensible and sustainable price. Once you make your choice, monitor the relationship to make sure the vendor delivers as promised.

To help you prepare for your vendor interviews be sure to read 6 Things to Look For In An Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP) for insightful questions you can ask about service performance, domain experience, software capability, and more. If process serving will also be a consideration in your vendor search you’ll find a battery of helpful tips to guide your interview questions in What to Look for When Hiring a Process Serving Company.

The best vendor model to choose will almost always be the one that aligns with your firm’s business strategy. Regardless of which model you choose, 21st century law firms that select an eFiling vendor with whom they can leverage innovation and common goals is the one with whom they most likely will experience a win-win.

 

You’ve Just Scratched the Surface
Our sales team can help find even more ways to transform your court eFiling into a strategic asset for your firm. Book a demo or schedule a call with a Rapid Legal team member to learn how the full scope of Rapid Legal’s portal capabilities can work for you.