Under proposed Rule 5.02, Tennessee lawyers will be able to serve pleadings via e-mail. Finally.

The Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure are being updated to reflect how lawyers use e-mail in the year 2022 (well, really, how lawyers have been using email for the past 20 or so years).

Lawyers email each other all day long. Constantly. It’s awful.

Law TikTok Superstar, Alex Su, showing us how lawyers email. He is, truly, a national treasure.

But, when it comes to sending opposing counsel a copy of a court filing, lawyers generally mail it.

This is largely due to custom (i.e. “the way it’s always been done”), but also due to the current version of Tenn. R. Civ. P. 5.02, which–even though it does allow for e-mail service–does not make it easy.

Under the current version, an attorney can serve via email, but only if there’s an attorney on the other side, and the sender must also send by “mail, facsimile, or hand-delivery” a separate notice that: says a document has been emailed; has a conspicuous subject line that a court pleading was e-mailed; includes the case caption; includes the official title of the e-mailed pleading(s); discloses the total number of pages being e-mailed and time of e-mail; contains a full statement of all the sender’s contact information and all email addresses of the recipients; and include a statement for recipients to notify the sender if the email is not received.

Faced with all these extra hoops to jump through, I have generally emailed the other lawyer a copy and, then, instead of doing all that extra stuff, would just print and mail a full duplicate set of the pleadings.

It was a complete waste of time, paper, and postage, but way less hassle.

Yesterday, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued an administrative Order that would modernize Tenn. R. Civ. P. 5.02(2)(a) in two important ways.

First, service by email can be effected on another attorney or “party” (so pro se and unrepresented parties can receive e-mailed pleadings, where they’ve provided an e-mail address). And, second, there is no longer a requirement to mail/fax/hand-deliver the other attorney or party a separate written notice of the email. E-mail service no longer requires the use of the United States Postal Service.

Many lawyers are switching to remote and non-traditional office space set-ups, and, across the board, e-mail is truly the easiest way to send notice of filings. In fact, in the rare instances when I’ve only first-class mailed pleadings, I wonder if the other lawyers are offended that I didn’t also email the pleadings for immediate receipt.

Sure, lawyers tend to hate change, and the amendments allow the “old guard” will continue to mail printed copies of documents, just like we’ve done for 100 or so years.

You can’t change old habits, I guess, but I’m glad to see these changes. They are an acknowledgement of how law is practiced in the modern world.

Author: David

I am a creditors rights and commercial litigation attorney in Nashville, Tennessee.

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