Birds are chirping, buds are blooming and postal rates are going up. They're all signs of spring! Get used to it.. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act was signed into law on December 20, 2006. Coming in the thick of the holiday season, few noticed. Under this law, the Postal Service may 'adjust' rates every year. Increases may not exceed the inflation rate as set in the consumer price index or CPI. Before the 2006 law, rates could only go up after public hearings were held on rate hikes proposed by the Postal Rate Commission. That commission was merged into the Postal Regulatory Commission, whose website confirms that price changes will be made every year in May.. So, by law, postage increases are now virtually automatic, tied to the CPI. Ironically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes postage as one of many items included in its calculation of the CPI. Call it a vicious cycle.. Lawyers, like everyone else, use the mail less these days. Maybe that's one reason the Postal Service must increase rates on material still mailed. For example, most Federal Courts now require electronic filing. District, Bankruptcy and Appeals courts require e-filing of case documents. Their "Case Management/Electronic Case Files" system is for the most part mandatory. The next time you see lawyers hauling volumes of papers into court in one of those high-profile made-for-TV cases, think of the loss of postage due to the fact that the originals were filed electronically.. Attorneys, like others, tend to communicate with one another by e-mail rather than the old "snail mail." I've recently been involved in scheduling depositions in two multi-party cases. Four or five attorneys and their assistants can simultaneously e-mail among themselves to coordinate their schedules much more quickly than by sending letters or by repetitive individual telephone calls and the inevitable phone-tag.. Note in that example, we're exchanging times and dates, and not client confidences. E-mail is not entirely private. Most attorneys warn clients about potential confidentiality problems with e-mail, which is not fully secure.. Back to the courts, where an internet service called "Public Access to Court Electronic Records", or PACER, gives access to Federal Bankruptcy, District and Appellate courts. You sign up for the service, and there is a per-page fee. But, anyone with a computer can access court records almost instantaneously, eliminating the need to mail a request, and wait for the court to make and mail copies.. New Hampshire court rules used to require that attorneys send an original plus two copies of discovery requests to the other side. "Interrogatories," a mainstay of any civil law suit, must be answered by all parties in a case. However, Superior and District Court rules have been amended in recent years allowing attorneys to agree to transmit interrogatories electronically or on a CD.. So, attorneys like everyone else, mail less and less.. When is the last time you actually got a "letter" from a far away friend or relative?. Most of my office and home mail is what they call bulk mail. An Oregon group by the name of Greendimes estimates that 100 million trees are destroyed every year to create junk mail, but that only 15% of bulk material is ever read.. I'm not suggesting that attorneys or anyone else mails less due to the cost. It's mostly a matter of convenience provided by technology. But at the same time, when the cost of any service goes up, consumers will seek alternatives.