Tuesday, January 5, 2016

FileTime Lowers Barriers for E-filing in Texas

A good friend of ours, Tom Schoolcraft from FileTime wrote the following article for our CTB readers about their Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP) system in Texas.  As an aside, I have long supported the EFSP concept as they can provide capabilities that are not part of “normal” filing such as document conversion services.  See below for more…


FileTime is an eFiling Service Provider in the eFileTexas system developed by Tyler Technologies. eFiling is now mandatory in all Texas counties except those with populations under 20,000. Even those small counties come under the mandate as of July 1 of this year.

The courts have mandated that eFileTexas system requires the filer to submit only PDF files into the system. Other restrictions regarding the PDF including:

Document dimensions must be 8.5” wide by 11” high.
The document cannot contain certain font types such as Zapf Dingbats and Symbol.
The document cannot contain password protection.
The document cannot contain any fill-in-the blank coding as found on fillable PDF files.
All documents must be text-searchable.

Most of the restrictions are not significant to larger law firms, but they are significant barriers to smaller firms, especially solo firms consisting of “more mature” attorneys.  And most of them have no clue what a text-searchable PDF file is; let alone how to create one.

The rationale for requiring text-searchable PDF files is to enable the bench to more easily navigate those documents. The justices in the Texas appellate courts seem to have embraced the practice of reviewing case documents electronically.

 In order to provide a better eFiling experience for our customers, FileTime added a robust suite of document processing features to our application. Those features include:

1. A document converter that converts nearly any uploaded file-type (including fax’s) to a text-searchable PDF file.

2. A document processor feature that warns the user about the following issues and provides a repair feature for it:
      a. When the document dimensions or orientation deviates from the standard,
      b. When the document contains fill-in-the blank coding

3. A document feature that warns the filer about the following document issues so they can be addressed prior to the submission:
      a. When the document contains security features such as password protection and/or
      b. The document contains non-allowed font-types such as Zapf Dingbats or Symbols.

4. An Optical Character Recognition (OCR) engine that the filer can invoke to convert a scanned and uploaded PDF file into a text-searchable PDF file.

The OCR engine is not utilized as frequently as we would have expected because the majority of Texas counties choose to ignore the mandate requiring text-searchable features. More than likely this decision by the clerks is largely a practical matter – a lot of time would be spent by the clerks’ offices to return non-compliant documents.

Features like the FileTime document processor tools are an excellent example of why many jurisdictions are beginning to embrace the EFSP model pioneered by Texas. This approach provides the benefits of competition and innovation into the eFiling mix. The result is a mix of service providers competing to provide added value to the system. As a result, under the EFSP model we have found that the firms and filers are happier with the eFiling as it provides the features and benefits that are often not found in single provider system.