Bar News - January 21, 2015
President's Perspective: Electronic Case Filing Is Here, So Letís Embrace It
By: Lisa Wellman-Ally
Let me start by saying that I am not tech-savvy. I can use electronics, as long as I have all the apps right on hand. Getting my computer to do something it seemingly does not want to do is beyond me.
Recently, I had what I thought was a virus. After fighting mightily with my computer for several days, the kid at the local store fixed it in less than an hour. Turns out the problem wasnít a virus, but instead had something to do with cookies (what I thought you had with milk as a bedtime snack) and add-ons (no idea what that means).
So, it was with great anxiety that I recently e-filed a small claims complaint in New Hampshire. Now, I had some e-filing experience. Vermont has already started using an e-filing system, and I have a couple of civil cases pending there. And the federal court has been doing business this way for many years.
However, I must admit, I hate trying new things. I like doing things the same old way. Filling out a small claims form by hand and dropping it off at my local court was really easy (and really lazy), but it worked for me. But, e-filing for small claims cases is now mandatory, so I had to do it, whether I liked it or not.
With my stomach aflutter, I clicked on the e-filing icon on the courtís website. To my surprise, it was really easy. I clicked ďAttorneyĒ and opened an account. I entered a debit card number and the other information the system required. But I must admit, it took me three tries to get the paperwork filled out, scanned and emailed.
This was mostly because I had used a post office box for my client, rather than a physical address, and the court needed a physical address. I finally received the email saying that my filing had been accepted and I had a case number. I even went back in and filed a petition to attach to the same case a few days later.
I have heard a lot of grumbling among my colleagues about e-filing and what is perceived by some as a lack of attorney input in the development of the system. And although I agreed with those sentiments, now that I have successfully used the system, I can see how it could make life easier.
Like many solo and small firm attorneys in New Hampshire, I practice in courts across the state. Sometimes, to file something expeditiously, you need to travel to a distant location. E-filing would make that travel unnecessary, which in the long run, will save practitioners time and money.
So, Iíd like to take this opportunity to encourage all attorneys in New Hampshire to either complete a training session or the attorney tutorial to learn more about e-filing (I did neither, which is why it took me three times to get it right). E-filing is here, so letís make it work for us.
Editorís note: Please see pointers from Circuit Court administrator Gina Belmont on using the e-filing technology of the NH e-Court project.