Company moves to capitalize on e-filing

Traipsing to the courthouse to pick up legal forms or using illegible photocopies

may be a thing of the past. That's what a California company is banking

on with its Jan. 29 launch of a new Web site containing 40,000 federal and

state court forms that users can fill out on their computer screen.

The site, called US CourtForms (www.uscourtforms.com), is the first

step toward electronic filing with the courts, said Bill Bean, vice president

of business development for the Encino-based American LegalNet, which provides

technology products and services to legal professionals. Users would save

time and money and become more efficient, he said.

"Everything begins with a form filing," he said. "Attorneys are filling

out these forms day in and day out. And having the most current form in

the most timely fashion makes all the difference in the world [with] whether

or not you're going to succeed."

Available forms include civil, criminal, bankruptcy and other legal

forms from federal, state and some county courts, and from some federal

agencies, secretaries of state and several state bar associations. Bean

said the forms are accurate right down to their typos.

"These are compliance-based documents. They have to be precise, right

down to the misspelled word. [The courts] want this document [exact] right

down to the font," he said.

Documents are accessible in Adobe Systems Inc.'s Portable Document Format

(PDF), Microsoft Corp. Word, and ScanSoft Inc.'s OmniForm Extensible Markup

Language (XML) format. Interactive and non-interactive forms for the PDF

and Word versions are available, but Bean said the XML format looks the

most precise and is the most user-friendly. Fields to be filled out are

highlighted in yellow, he said.

Users do not have to pay for non-interactive forms. Using an interactive

form just one time costs $5. Monthly subscriptions for unlimited use of

interactive forms are $19 for one state. Bean said most users, presumably

attorneys, would subscribe to a state and federal government, which would

cost about $34 per month. There is a one-time $25 fee to cover software

licensing.

By year's end, Bean said the company hoped to provide database connectivity

to law firms for services such as scheduling and case management and then

e-filing to the courts.

"In the next year and a half, more e-filing will be picked up by attorneys

because it's just easier to do," he said. "People fall into the path of

least resistance."

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