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By July 30, 2012

Associate’s Corner
Each month, Kluger Kaplan‘s associates will take to the blog to talk about topics relevant to their practice areas.  First up – Justin Kaplan talks about the practical realities of the new rule that makes service by e-mail mandatory.
E-mail Service – How will the New Rules Impact the Way Law Firms Manage Documents?
By Justin Kaplan
On June 21, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion making service by e-mail mandatory.  Rule 1.080 is now modified as follows: “Every pleading subsequent to the initial pleading and every other document filed in the action must be served in conformity with the requirements of Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516.”  Rule 2.516 of Judicial Administration requires that court filings be served by e-mail.
As first glance, this may not seem like a huge change.  Many firms already serve court documents by e-mail.  However, they are always followed up with service by mail as previously required by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.  With e-mail service mandatory, service by mail and fax is now optional: “Service by Other Means. In addition to, and not in lieu of, service by e-mail, service may also be made upon attorneys by any of the means specified in this subdivision (b)(2).”  Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(b)(2) (emphasis added).
Without the requirement of service by mail, larger law firms are going to have to review their internal document management systems to ensure that court documents, which will only be served on one of the attorneys working on a case, are properly filed and deadlines created are docketed.  For example, most law firms currently have a process for recording pleadings and other court filings that come in to the firm via fax or mail.  They are usually first scanned and saved electronically, and then subsequently, a legal assistant dockets the appropriate response date.
WIth e-mail service alone, an important discovery request or court order could get backlogged in my inbox if I am out of the office for a day or two.  A worse scenario could unfold if an associate is working with a partner and the partner receives service of the document by e-mail but inadvertently neglects to forward it to the rest of the team.
Fortunately, the language of the new rule provides a solution to the potential problem:  “Upon appearing in a proceeding, an attorney must serve a designation of a primary e-mail address and may designate no more than two secondary e-mail addresses. Thereafter, service must be directed to all designated e-mail addresses in that proceeding. Every document filed by an attorney thereafter must include the primary e-mail address of that attorney and any secondary e-mail addresses.”  Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(b)(1)(a).
It is important for attorneys and their staff to designate the appropriate secondary e-mail addresses to a legal assistant, junior associate, or other team member who can take over responsibility for managing the firm’s internal filing structure in order to ensure that the transition to e-mail service is smooth for the firm.  While service by e-mail will take some getting used to, it will ultimately revolutionize the way law firms handle document intake and filing, harkening back to the days when law firms went paperless.