Imagine a litigation practice without documents. It’s nearly impossible. Documents are a central part of every lawyer’s and legal assistant’s day-to-day life. Yet, documents are often the source of risks that can have dire consequences for a firm.
In last month’s post, “Keeping Up with an Explosion of Changes in Court Forms”, we focused on a specific challenge that all firms face: keeping up with the increasing volume and frequency of court form changes that began with the onset of the pandemic.
This month, we broaden our discussion to include five common errors associated with court forms. For each error, we’ll explain how document automation, can mitigate your risks.
1. Submitting outdated forms
Submitting an outdated form can lead to delays or even rejection of the form. So, your first order of business is to select the correct document.
Solution: Tap into an up-to-date court forms library. Look for document automation software that provides a continuously updated library of forms across multiple areas of litigation. You’ll remove the burden of tracking updates to court forms yourself and ensure that every form you pull up is the current one accepted by the courts.
2. Providing inaccurate or incomplete information
As with submitting out-of-date forms, providing inaccurate or incomplete information on a court form can lead to delays, rejection, or even dismissal of the case.
Solution: Use automated templates. Document automation software can include built-in logic and rules that follow best-practice workflows and ensure that documents are accurate and complete. The best systems allow you to enter matter and party information once and will automatically insert these details in the appropriate places consistently and accurately.
3. Failing to follow formatting and style guidelines
The courts typically have specific guidelines for formatting and styles. Failure to follow these guidelines can lead to delay, a request to resubmit, or even a rejection.
Solution: Document templates with court-approved formatting. Document automation software that includes a court forms library whose content and styling guidelines are actively updated, will ensure that every template you use meets the court’s formatting requirements, however strict they may be.
4. Failing to file the form by the deadline
Litigation is driven by dates, and most court forms have strict filing deadlines. Failing to file by the required deadline can result in a rejection of the form or dismissal of the case. For a broader discussion on this topic, see our post, “Administrative Dismissals Still a Risk for Law Firms”.
Solution: Use a tickler system to manage critical dates. Tickler systems provide a centralized record of all your firm’s limitation and critical dates and will alert relevant staff to approaching deadlines. (According to LIF, 86% of missed deadlines are due to flawed firm systems for managing dates.)
5. Not serving the form on all parties or the correct party
For forms submitted to the court, it may be necessary to serve the document on all parties to the matter. Failing to do so can lead to delays or even dismissal of the case.
Solution: Take advantage of electronic document service. Some jurisdictions now allow the use of software systems to electronically serve documents. The best of these will be integrated with your document automation system, so you can create and serve documents through one seamless process using a common user interface.
It’s critical that lawyers submit court forms that are complete, accurate, and comply with all court requirements. Document automation has become the de facto standard for ensuring nothing is missed. If you’ve thought about document automation but haven’t given it a try, it will be worth your while to take a second look.
About Michael Sauber
Michael Sauber leads the marketing program for Korbitec, producer of Automated Civil Litigation Software (ACL) and xchangedocs. He has worked with document production technologies and professional services for over 30 years and is a frequent blogger on these topics.