The 15-minute filing extension, brought to you by the era of midnight electronic filing deadlines

The witching hour approaches (image courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net)

When I was in law school, my wife was an assistant to a department head in an environmental consulting firm. Frequently, when I asked her what kind of day she’d had at work, she would respond that the scientists had made her day nuts by working on a project proposal at the last minute, forcing  the support staff to scramble like mad to make the FedEx deadline (usually 5 p.m. for those of us on the west coast). After hearing this a lot, I asked — with great naivete — “Has anyone ever considered getting the project done before the last minute?”

Then I got to my Big Law firm, and saw that a lot of the work product going out the door faced the same last-minute rush. I remember conference calls with co-counsel and/or clients suggesting competing changes to drafts an hour before they had to be sent electronically to another office, where they would be printed for filing (this was the early 90s, long before electronic filing).

With mandatory electronic filing in federal courts (and some state courts), lawyers now have the “luxury” of midnight filing deadlines, which means, naturally, that many lawyers are now working up to a few minutes before midnight on their filings. Sometimes it’s procrastination, other times perfectionism, but I doubt it is uncommon.

Which brings me to the request for the 15-minute filing extension, filed just after midnight by attorneys suffering technical difficulties with their electronic filing. In granting the extension, the court  asks “Why are we waiting until the eleventh hour?” and describes filing practices employed “in the old days” (which, in terms of technology in law offices, really weren’t that long ago). The 1-1/2 page order is well worth a read.

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