Law firm sanctions Toshiba's e-filing setup

Investing in broadband and the right techware helped cut costs and resources for the partners at Yong Koh & Partners.

Case study The partners at Yong Koh & Partners can't remember a time when they weren't rushing documents to the service bureau at the courts to convert into PDF files for e-filing. Investing in broadband and the right hardware changed all that.

Case Study: Yong Koh & Partners
Problem: How to reduce cost and time filing documents at the service bureau in the courts.

Solution: Install an EFS station in the office.

See how it works:
Overview: Yong Koh & Partners sanctions Toshiba Data Dynamic's e-filing setup
E-filing: Doing it the hard way
EFS made EZ: Broadband connection does the trick
The Hardware: Law firm uses Toshiba E Studio

Sunil Singh Panoo is a lawyer in a small law firm called Yong Koh & Partners. There are only three lawyers in the firm, which is based in UIC building on Shenton Way.

Since the courts introduced mandatory electronic filing of documents in 2000, the lawyers in the firm have been forced to go down to a service bureau in the courts to have their documents converted to Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) for submission to the courts.

The service bureau would close at 5pm, and would take last submissions at 4.30pm. Usually, a dispatch clerk would be used, but for last minute cases, the lawyers themselves had to rush out their documents and speed down to the service bureau themselves to submit the documents.

The procedure was time consuming, inconvenient and expensive.

Class action
But since August 2001, the lawyers at the firm have not had to rush down to the service bureau at all. Instead, they submit their documents from their office using the combination of a Toshiba E Studio scanner/copier/fax/printer and a broadband connection from Pacific Internet.

Now, when lawyers want to submit applications, they prepare the documents at their own PCs. They then hand the paperwork over to their secretaries who scan in the documents and then send the PDF files over the Symmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL). The whole process is over in about half an hour.

No one needs to rush to the service bureau, documents can be filed at midnight if need be, and the lawyers in the firm are much happier campers.

Jimmy Yap is a freelancer contributing to CNETAsia. Electronic filing the hard way

Case Study: Yong Koh & Partners
Problem: How to reduce cost and time filing documents at the service bureau in the courts.

Solution: Install an EFS station in the office.

See how it works:
Overview: Yong Koh & Partners sanctions Toshiba Data Dynamic's e-filing setup
E-filing: Doing it the hard way
EFS made EZ: Broadband connection does the trick
The Hardware: Law firm uses Toshiba E Studio

In an effort to better use Information Technology, the courts made it mandatory for lawyers to file documents electronically using the PDF format from March 2000. The project was known as EFS or Electronic Filing System.

Firms could install an EFS station in their office which some firms did. Smaller firms tended not to install these stations and instead used the service bureau which was attached to the Subordinate Courts and the Supreme Court.
All documents were given over to the service bureau to be scanned and digitized. The service bureau, run by Crimson Logic (previously Singapore Network Services), would charge S$25 per document and S$1 per page to scan, plus 15 percent for stamp fees.

Double jeopardy
On average, a small firm like Yong Koh & Partners was spending more than S$2,500 a month to submit the documents electronically.

The firm had to get a dispatch clerk to send the documents down each day to be scanned and submitted. For urgent matters, the lawyers themselves drove down to submit the documents because the dispatch clerk was away on other matters.

"I've had to do it myself a few times," said Panoo.

In August 2001, Yong Koh & Partners decided to install an EFS station in the office. It got a Toshiba E Studio four-in-one machine and a 384K SDSL line from Pacific Internet.

The four-in-one machine was supplied by Toshiba Data Dynamics, a distributor of Toshiba computer hardware. This machine scans the documents and immediately saves them in the PDF format.

Since then, the lawyers of Yong Koh & Partners haven't looked back. EFS made EZ

Case Study: Yong Koh & Partners
Problem: How to reduce cost and time filing documents at the service bureau in the courts.

Solution: Install an EFS station in the office.

See how it works:
Overview: Yong Koh & Partners sanctions Toshiba Data Dynamic's e-filing setup
E-filing: Doing it the hard way
EFS made EZ: Broadband connection does the trick
The Hardware: Law firm uses Toshiba E Studio

With an EFS station and a broadband connection, life for the lawyers at Yong Koh & Partners has become easier.

The advantage is that the system frees up resources, is more convenient, gives lawyers more time to prepare documents and, on top of everything else, is cheaper.

Because the firm no longer needs to file the documents at the service bureau, the dispatch clerk who used to handle the daily filing of documents has now been re-deployed to handle other tasks. A side benefit is the lawyers can now be sure the documents have been filed. "I can supervise and see it for myself," said Panoo.

Naturally, having the system in the office means it is now more convenient to file documents. The paperwork can be filed at anytime, day or night. The lawyers no longer have to worry about the service bureau closing.

Due process
"We no longer have to rush to courts to file last-minute documents" said Panoo.

He added: "The thing about litigation is that timing is very important. There is usually a time frame to file court documents. With EFS, it is easier to comply with the time frame. It buys you time. For example, if a writ of summons is filed against you, you have eight days to respond by filing a memorandum of appearance. Sometimes, clients come to us on seventh day."

With the EFS station in the office, Panoo still has time to prepare the documents. "If I did not have the EFS station and you come to me on the seventh day, the first thing I would do is scold you."

And, of course, the system is cheaper than going to a service bureau. The firm now pays S$5 per document rather than $25, and don't have to pay the 15 percent charge. Even after factoring in the cost of leasing the Toshiba E Studio and broadband connection, the new system is cheaper.

"The best thing about the system is the efficiency and being sure that the documents have been filed," said Panoo.

Added Patrick Koh, the firm's partner: "This is good for clients, too, because the disbursements part of the bill goes down. This means a lower bill overall." Cool combo: Toshiba E-Studio and broadband

Case Study: Yong Koh & Partners
Problem: How to reduce cost and time filing documents at the service bureau in the courts.

Solution: Install an EFS station in the office.

See how it works:
Overview: Yong Koh & Partners sanctions Toshiba Data Dynamic's e-filing setup
E-filing: Doing it the hard way
EFS made EZ: Broadband connection does the trick
The Hardware: Law firm uses Toshiba E Studio

Yong Koh & Partners chose Toshiba Data Dynamics to supply the hardware for the electronic filing.

The law firm is using the Toshiba E-Studio 45, a four-in-one system. For general office purposes, it is useful because it combines the functions of a printer, scanner, copier and fax machine.

For purposes of electronic filing, the E-Studio 45 is well suited because it converts documents straight to PDF format and allows people to send the documents directly to the courts.

Closure
Yong Koh & Partners liked the E-Studio 45 so much they leased two machines. The firm is spending about S$700 a month to lease the two E-Studio machines.

With up to 7MB worth of PDF documents being filed each day, the firm also felt a broadband connection was the only way to go. They signed up for Pacific Internet's SDSL Legal Plan and got themselves a 384K line. They pay about S$250 a month for the broadband connection.

Since SDSL allows high upstream and downstream data rates, the firm uses the upstream capability to file documents while the lawyers in the firm use the high downstream capability to use the Internet to get information.

Said the firm's IT manager Mark Leong: "Once you go into broadband, you never want to go to dial up."