County clerk hopes to ease lawyers into mandatory electronic filing
Monday, December 9, 2013 by Mark Richardson
Starting in January, attorneys in Austin and other large cities in Texas will be required to file all of court documents electronically. While e-filing court papers is not new – the process has been available for civil and probate cases for several years – it will inevitably mean that some law firms may have to make a few adjustments.
If fact, longtime Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says while she expects the process to go smoothly, some lawyers may have to “dragged into the 21st century, but we hope they won’t be kicking and screaming.”
“A lot of our attorneys have already been doing this as a part of their practice, so it won’t be a new experience,” she said. “But for some, it will be a new horizon.”
The Texas Supreme Court earlier this year mandated that all attorneys in the state’s 10 most populous counties must begin filing court documents electronically over any of several electronic filing service providers that do business in the state. The court also ruled that unrepresented (per se) parties and non-lawyer case participants may e-file their documents, but may also file paper documents.
Through Dec. 31, Travis County will continue to offer attorneys the option of e-filing or submitting documents on paper, via mail, courier, or in person at the County Clerk’s office at the Travis County Courthouse. Standard fees will apply for paper filing.
Attorneys will not be left on their own to figure out how to handle to adjust to the new system, according to Davis Ferris, director of Court Services for the Travis County Clerk’s office.
“We will be sponsoring a fair in which any attorney – actually any person – can show up and meet representatives of the various companies that will be offering services for electronic filing,” he said. “That way, they can get a lot of questions answered.”
Ferris also said lawyers and others can go online and watch videos that will teach them step-by-step how to electronically file documents with any court in Texas that is equipped for e-filing. He said current rules will apply until Dec. 31, and a new set of rules will apply starting Jan. 1. He added that the Texas Supreme Court has not yet published the final rules, but that draft rules are current available online at the Supreme Court’s website.
DeBeauvoir adds that attorneys and their office managers will be able to choose from among several filing service.
“They will be able to pick who they want to be their delivery vehicles,” she said. “They will be able to find a service that is most compatible with whatever their office software already is.”
She said that once the new system kicks in on Jan. 1, attorneys will still be able to get help with e-filing.
“We will be available all through December and January to help attorneys with electronic filing,” DeBeauvoir said. “They should call us if they have questions, have any trouble or need to know anything about the system.” The number is (512) 854-9188.
Ferris added that eventually all courts in Texas will be required to accept e-filing. The 10 largest counties begin in January, another group of smaller counties will change over July 1, 2014, and others every six months with a goal having every court in the state accepting e-files by July 1, 2016.
For more information, attorneys and others can go online to www.eFileTexas.gov to learn more and to find links to the other legal filing services available in Texas. Information is also available at www.TravisCountyClerk.org. Travis County attorneys are also encouraged to attend the ESFP Fair set from 10am to noon Wednesday in the Elections Training Room at the Travis County Clerk’s Office at 5501 Airport Blvd.
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