According to the National Center for State Courts, the Washington Supreme Court began to accept electronic filings in 1997—19 years ago. Now, every state court system has either implemented electronic filing or is in the process.
In 2001—15 years ago—bankruptcy courts began rolling out CM/ECF, the federal court systems’s paperless case management system. By 2004, all federal district and appellate courts were using CM/ECF.
I went paperless sometime around March 2005—nearly 12 years ago—on the advice of my malpractice insurance provider, Minnesota Lawyers Mutual. MLM had already gone paperless itself, and recommended going paperless to its members as a best practice. And of course over the years I have encountered many other paperless law firms.
In sum, some courts have been paperless for nearly two decades and the rest are in the process. Malpractice insurers are paperless and recommend it. Many law firms have gone paperless in the last decade or so.
And yet … I regularly find myself arguing with lawyers about whether it is even possible to go paperless. Courts may be notoriously slow to change, but they have managed it. Malpractice insurers are quintessentially risk-adverse, but they have managed it. Numerous law firms have managed it.
So if you find yourself questioning whether it’s possible to go paperless, or whether it’s a good idea to go paperless, well …