E-filing in Virginia – The Old Dominion enters the computer age

The legal profession suffers from many stereotypes, one of which is a hesitancy to get on board with new technologies and preferring to maintain the status quo, even when there is probably a better way of doing business.

Abbigale Bricker

You might envision a lawyer doing legal research by pulling a dusty old book off a shelf to understand the law on a particular subject. That definitely still happens, though the truth is we have better, cheaper and faster tools these days to find answers. The concept of e-filing falls into that category.

What is e-filing?

E-filing is the process of electronically filing your legal paperwork into the court system.

When you submit a case into the court system, you must file your initial pleadings for review and approval by the court. Paperwork is submitted to the clerk through a process called court filing. However, with the legal field transitioning to digital technology, e-filing is becoming the preferred method of submitting pleadings and other supporting documents.

E-filing has been used for many years in other states, like New York, and in the federal judiciary system. Many courts are starting to open up the opportunity to e-file even for self-represented litigants. E-filing has recently become available in the Commonwealth of Virginia as well.

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Why aren’t more firms e-filing in Virginia?

One reason more law firms and litigants in Virginia are not using e-filing is that the current process is a confusing hodgepodge of systems, options, and opportunities. Not all Virginia courts participate in e-filing. This is particularly true for Virginia’s General District Courts. Further, not all case types are eligible for e-filing.

The Commonwealth of Virginia introduced a voluntary e-filing system, managed by The Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia several years ago. This system is known as Virginia Judiciary E-Filing System (VJEFS), and it is open to members of the Virginia State Bar and their staff to use.

Since VJEFS was launched, some Circuit Courts in Virginia have elected not to participate in the state-government-run system. Instead, they use a variety of privately-managed voluntary e-filing systems, such as:

This list may continue to grow since there are multitudes of e-filing systems used in courts throughout the United States. Virginia Circuit Courts are not mandated to use any one e-file system. The good news is that all Federal Courts in Virginia use e-filing on one consistent platform, which is also used nationwide.  That system is the Case Management Electronic Case Filing System (CM/ECF), and it is mandatory (at least in Virginia) for all law firms to use for case filings.

If you are keeping score, that means that there are currently five e-file systems actively being used in the Commonwealth of Virginia! Unless your law firm is well-versed on the various systems, and which courts use what systems, your case may not reap all of the advantages that come with e-filing.

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What are the benefits of e-filing?

The e-filing process in Virginia varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the benefits are universal!

  • E-filing is Faster, easier and more accurate than filing lawsuits on paper
  • E-filed documents are securely stored and accessible online from “anywhere.” This means that courts, attorneys, the judge, court staff, and the public all can review the case file simultaneously, answer questions and get immediate answers anywhere, and at any time using the internet.
  • Case updates happen immediately.
  • E-filing reduces the time and effort of court and law firm staff dealing with paper, envelopes, and computer entries.
  • E-file streamlines the process of filing lawsuits by eliminating the need to make copies and pay for postage, employing messenger services, and sitting in traffic.
  • It reduces court staff workload since many of the system entries are made by the law firm staff, meaning a reduction in duplicative work.
  • When law firms e-file suits, all parties have access to an exact date-stamped copy of the pleadings. These can easily be saved to document management systems, emailed to necessary parties, and saved for future use.
  • The majority of process servers in Virginia accept emailed summonses, which expedites the process of getting the lawsuit papers served on the defendants in a timely fashion.

Bradley Kent and Leslee Soudrette

Allen & Allen practices e-filing

E-filing lawsuits have enabled The Allen Law Firm to be nimbler with tight deadlines. Even if the court personnel does not process the paperwork for several days, the lawsuit is officially filed as of the date it was submitted. This has saved our firm countless staff hours and money (as well as grey hairs) ensuring that our lawsuits are filed in compliance with the appropriate statutes of limitation.

As you may know, lawsuits cannot be filed after the applicable statute of limitation, which means the injured party has no further right to pursue his or her injury claim. When we have a client who comes to us later in the process, one with a statute of limitation fast approaching, the ability to quickly file suit online so that we can help them is priceless.

This is why it is important to choose a law firm experienced in e-filing, using the available technology to maximize results, and being unafraid to “shake things up” in order to best assist our clients.

If you are interested in referring a personal injury case to the oldest and largest (and cutting-edge!) personal injury law firm in Virginia, call the experienced attorneys at Allen & Allen today. We’d love to talk to you about how we can work together to ensure the best results for your client. Call 866-308-1307.