Retain Complete Bankruptcy Originals, Not Just Signature Pages, When Going Paperless

by L. Jed Berliner, Western & Central Massachusetts Consumer Lawyer

November 20, 2011

Bad Bankruptcy Practice to Save Only Signature Pages

It seemed like a dream to paper-burdened bankruptcy lawyers, this electronic filing stuff for bankruptcy courts.  Go paperless!  Save only signature pages.  Prepare your schedules, have the client make the necessary changes and sign where needed, then prepare the PDF documents, use the /s/ digital signature, and file away.  Sure, you keep the original “wet” signature pages.  Sure, you scan the images of the package returned by the client containing the handwritten revisions.  You end up with a very skinny file of about a dozen wet signature pages.  Your computer has scanned images of the package returned by the client along with all those supporting documents.  Yes !!!  Good-bye, File Storage Costs. 

Um, not so fast.  That electronic filing was your certification that you had clean documents, with the original signatures, of what you just filed.  You certified that you had more than the wet signature pages and the revision-marked versions; you reprinted the revised sections so the client AGAIN reviewed and signed the documents after being updated to incorporate the previous changes.   And you’re exposed to sanctions if you do not have clean printouts of the documents in your office identical to the filed PDFs, printouts which were signed after all the changes were made no matter now minor the changes – even simple typographic errors.  In re Daw, 2011 Bankr. LEXIS 279 (Bankr. D. Idaho 2011), In re Tran, 427 B.R. 805 (Bankr. N.D. CA 2010), aff’d sub nom. In re Nguyen, 447 B.R. 268 (9th Cir. BAP 2011),  In re Harmon, 435 B.R. 758 (Bankr. N.D. GA 2010). In re Brown, 328 B.R. 556 (Bankr. D. N.D. CA 2005). 

Many attorneys have signing conferences where this gets done.  Many attorneys have signing conferences but do not take this extra step of a reprint after revisions for another set of signatures.  Some don’t like signing conferences, instead mailing the documents – prepared after exhaustive preparation with the client – for a careful final review in the comfort of their own home, perhaps over a cup of coffee or tea, believing that it’s easier to concentrate anywhere than in an attorney’s office.

The rule remains the same in all circumstances.  We must keep in our paperless office a complete printout, after all changes are made, of what we file.

Image Credit:  Cornell University

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L. Jed Berliner practices exclusively in consumer bankruptcy, wrongful repossessions and foreclosures, credit card defenses, collector harassment, and student loans. He established his Springfield, MA practice in 1988 and in Auburn in 2013. Attorney Berliner is a regular and active contributor to the Bankruptcy Law Network, the Bankruptcy Roundtable, and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, three specialized consumer bankruptcy forums on the Internet, and is an informal mentor to regional practitioners. He is recognized by his peers as an expert in consumer bankruptcy issues. He thoroughly enjoys being rated "excellent" in his client surveys.

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Last modified: October 22, 2012