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

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

It seemed like a dream to paper-burdened bankruptcylawyers, 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 scanthe images of the package returned by the client containing the handwritten revisions. You end up with avery skinny file of abouta 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 hadclean documents, with the original signatures, of what you just filed. You certified that you had more than the wet signature pages andthe revision-marked versions; youreprinted the revised sections so the client AGAIN reviewed and signed the documents after beingupdated toincorporate the previous changes.And you’re exposed to sanctions if you do not haveclean printouts ofthe documents in your office identical to thefiled 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, insteadmailing thedocuments – 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 officea complete printout, after allchanges are made,of what we file.

Image Credit: Cornell University

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L. Jed Berliner practices exclusively in consumer bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, and related consumer protection litigation such as credit card defenses and suing debt collectors. He established his Springfield, MA practice in 1988. 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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