Many thanks to Martin Roell for this pointer (you can click the “translate to English” button in the upper left; it makes the whole experience far more understandable for us non-German speakers). It turns out that a German court is now accepting filings via e-mail, and will even allow those documents to be submitted in XML. In an e-mail, Martin dreamt about a not-too-distant future: “Imagine an XML-based document management system for lawyers that could automatically communicate with courts!”
The conventional wisdom (at least here in the States) is that the real driving force for technological change in the legal profession is the clients. If the clients demand something, law firms will develop it. I’m not so sure. If I’m a client, I’m less worried about the tools you use so long as you produce the results. The courts, on the other hand, are worried about the tools you use – because those tools directly affect their ability to do their jobs. In this sense, developments like the one Martin mentions are significant.
One thing is certain: courts are getting it. Last week we had Rory getting the West Virginia Supreme Court site set up using Radio, now we’ve got a court in Germany accepting filings via e-mail. It’s hard to believe, but it’s already been nearly six years since Schnader Harrison filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on CD-ROM. (Seems almost quaint today, doesn’t it?) Maybe Rory has some thoughts on what it will take for the courts to drive more standardization across the profession?