In a world driven by technology and digital transformation, it’s only natural that our legal system follows suit. On September 1, 2023 British Columbia, broke from tradition and took a significant step towards modernizing its legal processes. The 40-some-odd year chokehold that fax machines and standard mail service have had on the legal profession has finally ended. The BC Supreme Court Civil Rules officially require parties to have an email address (if available) for ordinary service in addition to a traditional address. The introduction of email service injects a much needed dose of convenience, efficiency, and accessibility into the province’s legal landscape. In this blog post, we delve into how ordinary service via email is a move towards achieving a more efficient and affordable legal system for all.
Enhanced Accessibility: Let’s face it: traditional methods of serving documents such as mailing, personal delivery, and faxing often pose logistical challenges and are time-consuming. The legal world is notorious for mountains of paperwork and some counsel remain loyal to traditional methods of service. With the advent of email service, these barriers have been partially broken down. Email is now an officially sanctioned default option for ordinary service rather than an agreement achieved between parties. Although the receiving party can still request delivery to an alternative mailing address, the receiving party must actively make that request within 3 days of receiving the documents served via email. When we can unilaterally create an electronic paper trail through a communication system we use daily, it becomes immediately apparent who served what and when. Lawyers, judges, and all parties involved can work more efficiently, leading to faster case resolution and reduced backlog in the court system.
Cost Efficiency: The cost of legal proceedings can be a significant burden for many individuals and organizations. The adoption of email service has the potential to reduce these costs. Although the rules still require personal service of certain documents, overall, there will be less time and money spent on packaging, courier services, printing, and asking the nearest baby boomer in the office how to operate the fax machine. Not only does it reduce the burden on office staff, it also helps make the legal system a bit more accessible to a broader range of people who may have been deterred by the cost, time, and logistical implications of paper-heavy litigation.
Why did it take so long?
One thing is certain: the integration of email service in British Columbia’s legal system represents a basic, simple, and forward-looking step towards a more efficient and accessible legal landscape. And it’s simplicity prompts us to reflect on why we didn’t embark on this journey sooner. Let it serve as a reminder that progress is often a good thing, even if it takes a while to arrive, and that in the end, it’s never too late to make positive changes for the betterment of our legal system, society as a whole, and especially the clients who trust us to incur sensible disbursements.
Hopefully, after a little introspection from the powers that be, in-person court hearings for short applications will be up next on the chopping block.
This blog post is not intended to be legal advice. For any legal advice concerning the application of the BC Supreme Court Rules to your case, please contact the writer at [email protected]