The rollout of a statewide eFiling platform is a transformative moment for the Illinois courts. But if you already eFiled locally in years past, you may not realize how much your experience is about to change under Odyssey eFileIL.

By July, you won’t need to go to the clerk’s website to file in Cook County. You’ll get to choose one portal you can use to file civil cases in any court in the state. And if you’re not satisfied with your filing experience, you can choose another one tomorrow.

The way eFiling used to be

Electronic filing is not new in Chicagoland.

In 2003, the Supreme Court launched a pilot program to test electronic filing in five counties, intending to eventually spread the practice across the state. But a decade later, expansion was slow.

While eFiling cut down on trips to the courthouse and administrative costs, the technology required significant up-front public investment. And since different systems operated in different counties, transferring cases became notoriously difficult.

The court realized that to implement eFiling statewide, a single platform was needed. But how do you choose—and pay for—a system that works just as well for store owners in Danville as for insurance defense firms in Chicago?

Illinois’ new, statewide eFiling system

Wisely, the Supreme Court split the task in half. They awarded a contract to build the courts’ back-office system for accepting and reviewing filings (called the electronic filing manager, or EFM) to Tyler Technologies, a Texas company that had implemented similar projects in a dozen other states. This system was branded Odyssey eFileIL.

To win this deal, Tyler had to build one “free” eFiling portal, or electronic filing service provider (EFSP), for filers. This service had to offer the basic functionality needed to place a filing without levying any additional fees.

But the Supreme Court also allowed for competing EFSPs, which could offer extra support, capabilities or professional services in exchange for a small per-filing fee. The idea was to give filers alternatives that might be better suited to how they file.

Why pay for an EFSP?

Here are some examples of frequent filer issues that can be reduced or avoided by using a paid EFSP.

  • Accounting chaos. The Odyssey EFM the courts use immediately charges a credit card for each statutory court fee, which can make it difficult to accurately reconcile charges back to cases and clients. Some EFSPs, like One Legal, can disburse those fees on your behalf, organize them into ready-made invoices by client, and bill your firm monthly or weekly.
  • Rejected filings. Electronic filing brings with it a new set of document preparation standards, and failing to follow them closely can result in rejections. Some EFSPs automatically convert your documents to the correct format, offer CLE-accredited filer trainings or provide local support staff with extended hours.
  • Lack of available filers. What if you’re on vacation, or a major case hits with imminent filing deadlines? Some EFSPs offer concierge services for preparing documents and filing on your behalf.

How do I evaluate my choices?

Go to efile.illinoiscourts.gov and click on the “Providers” tab. You’ll see all the current certified EFSPs you can use to file in Illinois, along with a comparison chart outlining their pricing and key features. The Chicago Bar and other legal associations are also great resources to lean on for advice and feedback about eFiling service providers.

Since EFSPs can only charge per filing, there are no registration fees or contracts to sign. Some also offer free trial periods. There’s no risk in making a few filings with a different provider to see which you like best.

The only way to get burned is to not use the choice you’ve been given.