Filing Partner Ecosystem:

Diverse, Sustainable & Accessible

Create a Diverse Partner Ecosystem

A court’s efiling ecosystem should include a diverse group of technology partners, including third-party vendors, some of which may build solutions for multiple court functions.

  • While managing fewer technology partner relationships can seem attractive from a resource allocation perspective, embracing vendor diversity promotes increased system flexibility, sustainability, and fairness.

As discussed in the Filing Technology Infrastructure section, the use of data standards and open interfaces makes integration between a court’s electronic filing manager and multiple electronic filing service providers easier than you may imagine.18

Standards facilitate a diverse, sustainable, and accessible filing ecosystem. On the other hand, relying on systems and vendors with outdated or non-standard approaches limits development of your partner ecosystem.

Even if your court chooses to build a custom efiling system or use a single vendor for your filing technology infrastructure, there are still benefits to expanding your ecosystem of user-facing electronic filing service providers. These providers are the gateway to your efiling system and a critical partner to the overall user experience.19

By offering a variety of efiling options tailored for various users, you will better meet the needs of all your court users.

Court Modernization Diagnostic Tool

Use this diagnostic tool to help determine where to focus your filing system modernization efforts.

  • More “YES” answers mean that your court is further along in modernizing that category. Focus more on recommendations in this Toolkit for categories where you’ve answered “NO.”
Does your court offer a diverse set of efiling tools for various user & case types?
Does your court require vendors to demonstrate a commitment to your access to justice goals before admitting them to your partner ecosystem?

Recommendation 1

Select Technology Partners with Diverse Business Models

Courts can choose between vendors with a variety of business models when selecting user-facing electronic filing service providers. A court may deploy one or more tools in their filing environment by (1) purchasing from for-profit companies, (2) partnering with grant-funded nonprofit organizations, (3) building solutions in-house with government-funded employees or contractors, or (4) doing all of the above.

Each of these options has costs and benefits, and diversifying your partner ecosystem will help minimize the risks of any one option and avoid vendor lock-in problems. If a particular business model or service provider turns out to be unsustainable, your court will have alternate options already in place. If a particular vendor only provides limited filing types or targets a particular group of litigants, your court will have alternate service providers to fulfill other roles. By taking advantage of opportunities to grow and diversify your electronic filing service provider marketplace, your court can future-proof your filing systems.

What are the different types of service providers?

For-profit electronic filing service providers often feature a range of approaches to support their businesses, including revenue generated by charging users flat fees or for premium add-on services. We recommend seeking out for-profit partners with a variety of revenue streams. Common vendors include ABC Legal, GreenFiling, and InfoTrack, among others.

One limitation of for-profit service providers is that they can be expected to direct investment toward their highest profit-generating solutions. This may lead to instances where a no/low-cost efiling solution becomes outdated or inoperable due to underinvestment. On the other hand, their continuous revenue streams may enable development and maintenance of solutions that serve low-income communities. If the market is large enough, for-profit service providers can also target niche areas that would not otherwise be served.

In order to hedge the risk of these providers moving too far away from promises of low-cost tools, your court can deploy upfront screening to ensure they are committed to access to justice as a part of their business model. See Recommendation 2: Align Vendors with Access to Justice Goals.

Nonprofit electronic filing service providers, such as Suffolk Law School LIT Lab, can also be an important part of a diverse provider ecosystem. They often serve specific communities, such as low-income populations, which lets your court increase access to efiling.

However, nonprofits may struggle with ongoing sustainability and product maintenance due to unpredictable revenue and grant-based funding sources. As a result, their solutions that primarily serve low-income communities could become outdated or abandoned. Even so, there are good reasons to include nonprofit service providers in your court’s efiling partner ecosystem. Of all the different business models, nonprofits are most likely to be aligned with your court’s commitment to increasing access to justice. They may also have existing partnerships with legal services organizations that can help your community outreach efforts. Furthermore, you can minimize the risk of financial instability by co-funding recurring maintenance costs with other state courts and training your IT staff to bring some of the ongoing maintenance in-house.

How can you structure your filing ecosystem?

There are at least three structures that courts may choose when deciding how to provide court users with a means for electronic filing: a competitive marketplace of multiple electronic filing service providers, a court-selected single service provider, or a court-built system. Whichever structure your court chooses, you will need to ensure your system is flexible and does not become obsolete by deploying or building technology solutions in ways that allow you to easily make changes when you need to.  

If your court’s electronic filing manager offers an API, then a variety of other third-party vendors that provide user-facing electronic filing service provider solutions can easily integrate with and file into that system. This creates a competitive marketplace of efiling service providers, which gives court users a choice of services for efiling. For example, both InfoTrack (a for-profit company) and Suffolk LIT Lab (a nonprofit organization) are certified electronic filing service providers for Tyler Technologies’ open-API electronic filing manager, eFile & Serve. Each of these providers target different audiences and provide other services in addition to efiling. A robust marketplace will offer a variety of options for different user-types and subject matters.  

If the backbone of your court’s filing system is a third-party vendor’s electronic filing manager that your court bought, then chances are it came with an out-of-the-box electronic filing service provider solution. Some courts choose to offer court users only one option for efiling and use vendors like
ImageSoft (a for-profit company), that offers an externally facing solution for court users together with its TrueFiling electronic filing manager product. This model may reduce the internal resources necessary to manage the efiling system and give courts more control over services offered and fees charged to users. However, it lacks redundancy, so if the system goes down then users don’t have other filing options. Equally concerning, having a single provider also limits user choice. As a result, some users may not be able to easily navigate your efiling system, especially if the interface is designed for attorneys. 

Electronic filing systems that are funded and developed in-house, such as
Connecticut’s E-Services and the Kentucky eCourts, are customized to a court’s specific needs, which affords more control over functionality. However, in-house built solutions may also be slower to adopt technical changes, undergo needed maintenance, and add new features due to limited court staffing and budgets. As a result, they could become inferior to others that incorporate the latest technology and data standards. Despite the risk of obsolescence and incompatibility, courts may still want to include in-house developed solutions in their efiling partner ecosystem. Developers of these systems are most likely court employees, so they may be well-versed on court operations and available to provide ongoing maintenance as part of their jobs. Additionally, having an in-house electronic filing service provider may hedge against unexpected vendor price increases and nonprofit funding requests. 

What can your court do to promote a diverse provider ecosystem?

No structure or financial model is perfect, but there are benefits to allowing multiple efiling service providers into your filing ecosystem, whether you buy or build your efiling infrastructure. For example, different court users may have different filing needs. A law firm that files cases in bulk may need additional services from a provider, such as seamless service of process. A self-represented litigant may want easy-to-use form preparation services that tie seamlessly into efiling. 

One-size-fits-all efiling solutions do not serve all court users equally well, and courts should provide filing tools that serve a variety of user needs to ensure that our courts are open and accessible. Even courts with a single service provider or a custom-built efiling system should integrate other user-facing service providers into their ecosystems so they can take advantage of opportunities that enter the marketplace in the future. For example, if a vendor develops a sustainable efiling service provider designed specifically for self-represented litigants, your court will likely want to offer that service to court users.

As discussed in the
Filing Technology Infrastructure section, deploying electronic filing system components that use modern data standards and offer an open Application Programming Interface (API) will likely increase access to efiling for all court users by promoting entrance of more technology providers. APIs are even more valuable when paired with good documentation that reduces the burden on vendors who want to connect with your efiling system. 

Vendors report spending unnecessary time and money to understand a court’s filing system, only to learn that they can’t easily connect to it or the cost is prohibitive. By providing more transparency about your systems and technical requirements, your court can make it easier for qualified vendors to offer valuable services your court users want. Documentation should include: (1) a high-level overview of your court’s systems; (2) the technical requirements to establish compatibility with APIs, including the format needed; and (3) the certification requirements to become an electronic filing service provider.

Recommendation 2

Align Vendors with Access to Justice Goals

When adding new electronic filing service providers to your court’s partner ecosystem, you have an opportunity to align your new technology partners’ systems with your court’s access to justice values, mission, and goals.20 Technology vendors can be united under a common goal like narrowing the access to justice gap in your state.

Demonstrating a commitment to these values and goals can and should be a core part of any provider certification process. Every new and existing vendor should be tasked with supporting your court’s goals of fair and equitable access to justice, though the requirements may vary by type of service provider and the intended audience for their products and services.

Vendors can further your court’s goals to improve access to the courts and your state’s broader access to justice goals in many ways. For example, for-profit electronic filing service providers that do not charge efiling fees for verified low-income litigants would align with the mission of narrowing the access to justice gap in a very direct way.

What can your court do to promote accessible efiling?

For instance, you may ask vendors to commit to ongoing customer support for court users, transparency regarding data collection practices and total costs for users, and no efiling fees for low-income filers. You may also require vendors to conduct usability testing of efiling interfaces with a variety of user types before release and provide a way for users to report issues and give feedback on their experience using the system. Language and disability access standards should be included as well. These are just some of the requirements that your court may include in your checklist, depending on your access to justice goals and priorities.
See Appendix B: Sample Checklist for Vendor Alignment with Access to Justice Goals.

Your checklist should be developed to align with your court’s access to justice goals and you should require new service providers to satisfy checklist items before agreeing to admit their products to your court’s efiling partner ecosystem. Electronic filing service providers that serve specific populations may have slightly different checklist requirements that reflect the needs of those populations. For example, a product that is designed to serve a specialized group of lawyers may not be required to provide user interfaces in multiple languages.

Courts may work together to develop a more formal certification protocol for vendors. See Technology Governance – Recommendation 1. Additionally, you should ask your existing service providers to demonstrate how their efiling solutions currently satisfy your checklist. If a partner has difficulty meeting your requirements, you should discuss possible options with that vendor, including contract modifications.

Appendix B has a sample alignment checklist.

Maturity Model

The Filing Partner Ecosystem Maturity Model lays out moderate, good, better, and advanced stages. Consider where your court’s filing partner ecosystem falls on this model and how it compares with other states that are profiled.


Efiling system comprises a single vendor or a custom built efiling system.

Your court’s efiling system is a single vendor’s solution that the court pays for or it was developed in-house. No other service providers connect to the system. Little or no focus may have been placed on addressing access to justice issues.


There are a small number of established vendors in the filing partner ecosystem. 

There are a small number of established efiling vendors that the court either pays directly for their products or that are developed in-house. The latter may address access to justice issues, but the former mostly do not.


A broader partner ecosystem exists, with some alignment to the court’s access to justice goals.

Your court increasingly engages with a greater number of efiling vendors, including for-profit companies and nonprofits. Courts begin to require that their vendors narrow the access to justice gap in some way.


A diverse ecosystem facilitates access for providers and aligns with the court’s access to justice goals.

Your court engages with (and may promote) a broad range of efiling vendors with different business models, which are evaluated against specific criteria that weigh how they narrow the justice gap. Several types of vendors cater to users with different legal issues.


Single vendor or custom efiling system

Your court offers users a single path for efiling. That might mean that an attorney or litigant uses an electronic filing service provider offered by a single vendor or a tool developed in-house that is government-funded. In either case, providing basic efiling access of some kind is the primary focus. Little or no focus has been placed on addressing access to justice issues.

The Kentucky Courts built their custom efiling system, which is well liked by lawyers but can only be used by members of the bar association, except in limited small claims cases. Even in those cases, court users are required to take hours of training before they can electronically file.


Small number of established partners

Your court partners with a small number of established efiling service providers that you either buy or they are government funded and built. The vendors may be more entrenched in the national filing ecosystem and may work with several states already, but they largely do not address access to justice issues.

The New York efiling system is custom-built but allows some established vendors that serve law firms and attorneys into its partner ecosystem, like InfoTrack. It also has a custom-built efiling service provider for unrepresented litigants.


Broader ecosystem with some alignment on access to justice goals

Your court has increased efforts to partner with and allow marketplace entry to a greater number of electronic filing service providers, some of which are nonprofit, government-built, or for-profit companies. Plans may be considered to require new vendors to narrow the access to justice gap in some capacity before you will contract with them and allow them to file into your courts.

State Highlight: Illinois

The Illinois Courts’ open efiling system creates a platform for 16 different electronic filing service providers that serve a variety of attorney and litigant populations. Their partner ecosystem is featured at eFileIL and includes 2 court-provided options, Odyssey eFileIL (designed for attorneys, but used by self-represented litigants, too) and Odyssey Guide & File (a document assembly and efiling tool for self-represented litigants). The partner ecosystem also includes Suffolk Lit Lab (a nonprofit), which is a certified Illinois efiling service provider that partners with Illinois Legal Aid Online to allow court users to efile limited types of court forms created using the document assembly tool Docassemble. Illinois’ diverse efiling partner ecosystem is made possible because Illinois activated their vendor’s current ECF standards-based API to encourage other vendors to enter the marketplace. See Filing Technology Infrastructure for more information on ECF standards and open APIs.


Diverse ecosystem aligns with access to justice goals

Your court is willing to engage with and even publicly promote electronic filing service providers with a broad range of business models. You have a certification protocol in place to assess all vendor partners against specific criteria that weigh how their efiling solutions serve key communities and narrow the justice gap.

Your court’s partner ecosystem includes several types of vendors who may cater to different legal issues and court user types. No court is at this ideal stage yet, but several courts that have robust partner ecosystems may want to work together to develop a certification checklist that aligns with their access to justice missions and goals.   

Impacts of a Robust Filing Partner Ecosystem


Courts minimize the risks of being locked into underperforming or unsustainable vendors

Engaging with multiple partners with different business models means there are more options to work with if your initial choices turn out to inadequately serve court users and staff. Court awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of various business models can help you screen out vendors that are unlikely to succeed, avoiding this problem in the first place.


Lawyers and litigants will likely have access to a wider set of high quality efiling options

Encouraging a diversified set of electronic filing service providers increases the chance that different types of litigants get access to a range of helpful tools. This could mean a broader set of tools targeting narrower—but still important—legal issues and court user types.

It also may mean vendors are competing with each other and offering higher quality user experiences. Focusing on a commitment to access to justice in the contracting stage increases the likelihood that some new vendors will produce tools for underserved populations, like self-represented litigants.


More certified electronic filing service providers will likely yield greater efiling access for court users. A diverse ecosystem of service provider types—for-profit, nonprofit, and government-funded—will minimize the potential limitations of any one business model and improve sustainable and fair efiling access. Specific partnership criteria will help ensure that this range of diverse partners is at least partially addressing the access to justice crisis and is aligned with your court’s goals.

Your court may need to allocate additional resources toward managing a diverse partner ecosystem; however, this short-term cost can make your court a long-term leader in narrowing the access to justice gap. We recommend every state court consider a fair and diversified partner ecosystem as a non-discretionary investment.

18 As you read this section regarding different types of service providers, the importance of open interfaces and APIs becomes clear—only with an open interface can you accommodate a diverse range of service providers.

19 See Jud. Council of Cal., Preliminary Evaluation of the E-Filing Pilot Project in the Superior Court in and for the County of Orange 11 (2014), (discussing the numerous roles that electronic filing service providers play).

20 See, e.g., Washington State Court Rules: Access to Justice, WASH. CTS. (2020), (documenting the Access to Justice Technology Principles adopted by the Supreme Court to emphasize the role of technology in the court’s mission to provide justice).

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