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Bike Couriers Riding Off Into the Sunset

First, it was the typewriter.  And now, another former sine qua non of law firm practice -- the bike courier -- faces endangered species status in this Internet-enabled paperless era. 

The Providence Journal reports on how e-filing is impacting the bike courier business in Rhode Island and nationwide. Back in 1999, the state had about 480 couriers and messengers, but that number dropped to 400 -- down nearly 20 percent -- by 2006.  The state's trend aligns with national statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, which show a decline in couriers and messengers from 134,370 in 1999 to 105,070 in 2006.

Not surprisingly, Walter J. Marshall, the Boston-based regional economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, attributes the decline to the emergence of electronic communication and e-filing. In Rhode Island, both U.S. Bankruptcy Court and federal district court have been using e-filing for the past few years.  Even the Secretary of State's office began accepting corporations' annual reports electronically in August 2007, and is now considering extending the electronic filing program to nonprofits and limited liability companies.  Indeed, thus far, the state courts remain the only hold-outs, though they are expected to implement e-filing by 2011.

In the meantime, courier services, which rely heavily on court filings and law firm business, are coping with the changes.  One company, Dash Delivery, lost 30 percent of its business when the Bankruptcy Court went electronic and another 25 percent when the federal district court went online.  The company continues to deliver important documents, as well as charging documents in criminal cases and initial complaints, which are still filed in paper form.  And it is diversifying, now delivering blood samples and medical files for hospitals. 

Do you or your law firm still rely on messenger services and bike couriers?  Will there always be a need for messenger services -- or will we see their ranks continue to decline?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 12, 2008 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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