Think about what Texas appellate practice was like a decade ago. Courts required paper filings, and filing fees were paid by check. Appellate records existed only in paper form. Briefs had to be completed in time for the right number of copies to be made and either hand-delivered or dropped in the mail to ensure timely filing and service. Making an after-hours post-office run to ensure the “mailbox rule” was satisfied was not unusual. Accomplishing work while traveling generally meant lugging around paper files and a laptop and relying on a slow and unreliable internet connection.
Fast forward to 2018. Our courts have gone digital in nearly all respects. A large, multi-volume appellate record is reduced to a searchable PDF file. eFileTexas.gov allows us to timely file and serve briefs until 11:59 p.m. on the due date. High-speed internet has become widespread, and the devices through which we access digital information have become increasingly sophisticated and powerful.
Except for the occasional oral argument or other court appearance, a modern-day appellate lawyer should be able to work productively from anywhere in the world. With help from one of my digital mentors, Ernie Svenson, my next few posts will overview some of the hardware, software, and best practices that allow appellate counsel to serve clients safely, securely, and efficiently from almost anywhere.