Part 4: Electronic Case Filing Automation
- ECF Automation – eliminates the manual download and distribution of documents.
- The impact of ECF Automation to firms:
- Downloading and manually managing filings is time consuming
- Time spent is predominantly non-billable (or written off)
- Delay in receiving the filings (particularly if traveling or have bad internet access)
- Notices are highly disruptive to productive workflows multiplies disruption and exponentially increases inefficiencies.
- Eliminates unnecessary PACER charges
- Ensures complete court documents in your document management system or database
- Ensures consistency in naming conventions and filing
- Selecting Vendors
- Critical to have a selection process
- Key considerations for selecting the right vendor:
- Do they offer Enterprise Deployment? Enterprise deployment offerings ensure higher adoption and better resource management.
- Do they integrate with your DMS? Which systems do they support and how is the integration achieved?
- What is the level of support provided? Do they have a dedicated support team? How many people are on their support team? When and how are they available? How do they manage sealed document removal?
- Usage Stats How many filings and cases do they process each year?
- Enterprise Client References – Can they include similar firms with similar needs and size?
- Data – Automating the workflow is not just efficiency, it’s providing access to an important data set that can be accessed from multiple sources in the firm. This allows you to understand they amount, the timing and type of filings are in your firm.
- The vendor selection is really based on your firms needs and should be evaluated carefully.
- Focus on your firm’s top pain points in your evaluation.
- Change management is also a consideration. What support will the vendor provide and how will the roll-out process be achieved for maximum adoption.
- Test it out! Lead a pilot, gather feedback, then measure the success of the pilot based on firm needs.
Stephanie Goutos discussed how the killer feature of ECF automation is efficiency because it eliminates the need to manually download and distribute case documents. Using PACER alone, for each new matter the attorney of record receives a notice of electronic filing email and limited time access to the docket’s documents. The attorney must click a link in the email to access the docket and download each document individually. This can be a time-consuming process, which is not billable. It also delays the receipt of subsequently filed documents and can interrupt other work. In addition, someone must manually rename and insert documents into a firm’s DMS. This is also time consuming, and it increases the risk of incomplete document collections and inconsistent naming conventions for documents.
Goutos noted that while there are several vendors that provide ECF Automation services, the key to success is a careful selection process. When she led the ECF Automation selection process at a former firm at which they ultimately selected PacerPro, she found it helpful to that ensure that: (1) the vendor has deep experience with large enterprise deployments; (2) the product integrates well with your DMS; (3) the vendor provides an adequate level of support; (4) the platform can protect confidential information and pull back any documents, if needed; (5) the platform provides usage statistics and can handle the number of documents your firm processes; (6) the vendor has clients who are willing to provide candid references about the product and support; (7) the vendor has adequate training and communication materials to help with the rollout and adoption; (8) that the vendor’s pricing provides an adequate return on the investment; and (9) that the product provides access to the data behind the docket records so you can address the marketing and knowledge management issues addressed earlier.
Finally, Goutos gave some tips about testing and implementation. She stressed the importance of talking to many of your firm’s employees (attorneys, docketing, paralegals, etc.) to understand their workflows and pain points. Armed with that knowledge, you can plan and execute a pilot program to test the product and make sure it works as the vendor has promised. Assuming all goes well, and you’re ready to move forward, plan your implementation and rollout. Change management is always a challenge, and one of the most important keys to ultimate success, so don’t skimp. Communicate the rollout plan early and often, establish training sessions, and ensure that everyone is aware of the changes, the benefits, and the timing. Since an established vendor has been through many implementations, it’s helpful to rely on them to make this process easier.
About the Webinar:
On June 7, 2022, the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) hosted a webinar called Demystifying the PACER Services Marketplace, From Docketing to Analytics that helped explain and clarify the service options from various vendors. It was moderated by well-known legal tech journalist Bob Ambrogi, who was joined by a knowledgeable and experienced panel of legal professionals:
- Jeremy Sullivan, Manager of Competitive Intelligence and Analytics at DLA Piper
- Marshall Voizard, Reference Supervisor at Hughes Hubbard & Reed
- JoAnn Buss, Senior Docket Analyst at Cooley
- Stephanie Goutos, Practice Innovation Attorney at Gunderson Dettmer
Each panelist covered one of the four main categories of PACER-related services offered by various providers: Analytics, Docketing, Tracking & Alerts, and Electronic Case Filing Automation. Due to the number of PACER tools on the market today, it can be confusing when they overlap to truly determine which ones are best for your organization.