Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, courts have been allowing e-filing more as a way to prevent physical contact through expanding its use of technology. Toronto legal research software provider CiteRight saw a need and has just filled it with the launch of a free e-filing toolkit.
The toolkit summarizes the requirements for e-filing for every jurisdiction in Canada that allows it. It follows on the heels of a COVID-19 courts resource that the company launched in March, and its core CiteRight product launched last year, which is a platform that allows legal teams to work together and to automatically cite sources.
“In building a tool to help lawyers comply with court requirements and generate properly formatted submissions, it meant that we learned a lot about how the courts operate,” says CiteRight founder and CEO Aaron Wenner. “And … so we were able to turn that around and say, ‘Okay, well, how can we generate more information about this that’s helpful to the wider legal community?’” The result was the online COVID resource — a daily update of how the courts’ practice records are changing in response to coronavirus — and then the e-filing toolkit.
“As we started speaking to our customers, we heard that this thing, electronic filing, was becoming implemented more widely across Canada, but that the rules were really hard to find,” says Wenner. “We felt like we could make those rules a lot more accessible to the general public by just extracting the core parts, rather than having to read an entire document at a glance.”
Wenner is trained as a lawyer (McGill Law, then articling for a large Bay Street firm), and experienced a lot of problems that CiteRight is trying to solve, he says. “When it came to the coronavirus and e-filing, I realized there was a crisis. It feels like giving back to the legal community … but coming from my background, we care about making resources available. We have a general interest in contributing.”
“What we’ve done is look at every single place in Canada that allows e-filing, and extract common elements across all of them. Do you submit by email? Is there a filing fee? A naming convention [for files]? … For every jurisdiction, we’ve filled out that list. … We’ve summarized those rules for every single jurisdiction in Canada that allows e-filing, and if there’s more than one branch in that court. It provides an at-a-glance summary for electronic submission of court materials.”
CiteRight counts some of Canada’s largest law firms as its clients, and Wenner says the response to both its core product and to the toolkit has been very gratifying; “our site traffic has doubled, and we’re continuing to grow.
All of CiteRight’s products have been built in close partnership with its users, and new information, such as filing fees, was recently added in.