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Forget Lexis; forget Westlaw. Georgia is the most advanced state when it comes to court technology, according to the Center for Digital Government, a national organization that helps governments go high-tech. What does this mean for the average Georgia lawyer? A lot of information, for which the big legal research companies charge, is provided free through the state. The state also allows lawyers to transact business online. “We expect by the end of this year that we will have available the ability to incorporate a business without any shred of paper,” says Secretary of State Cathy Cox. “The ultimate objective is to make every transaction that you have to perform through our office available through the Internet.” Cox says the conversion to Web-based operations has “revolutionized the way transactional lawyers are doing business.” For example, before January 1998 it took up to two weeks to reserve a name for a corporation. Now, via e-mail, it takes just minutes. FREE SEARCHABLE DATABASES Georgia earned its top marks in the Center for Digital Government survey in large part because of its archive of published decisions from the state’s appellate courts, says Tom Bostic, executive director of the GeorgiaNet Authority. The authority was established in 1990 by the General Assembly to provide electronic access to public materials. Bostic says “99.9 percent of the information is free.” At www.ganet.org/appellatecourt visitors can search opinions from the Georgia Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. Keywords and date restrictions help refine searches. The site includes cases back to 1997. The Office of the Attorney General site at www.ganet.org/ago has a database of opinions that it has issued to state officers, such as legislators, judges, or district attorneys. “Electronic access to all of the attorney general’s opinions from 1994 to present day are available online and with the use of two types of search engines,” says Bostic. “This provides access not only to the legal community but also to the general public.” At the Web site for the Secretary of State Corporation Division, www.sos.state.ga.us/ corporations, visitors can search a catalog of Georgia corporations, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies. Information includes names, registered agents, officers, filing dates, and status. Legal researchers can navigate the unannotated Georgia Code at www.ganet.org/services/ocode/ ocgsearch.htm. Posted statutes are current through the 1999 session of the General Assembly and can be searched by keyword or code number. And there’s still more free stuff, ranging from the text of Office of State Administrative Hearings rules and the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act Georgia Administrative Procedure Act at www.ganet.org/osah, to the Uniform Superior Court Rules at www2.state.ga.us/ Courts/Supreme/, and the full text of the Georgia Constitution at www.cviog.uga.edu/Projects/. PREMIUM SERVICES AVAILABLE GeorgiaNet also offers specialty services for those who want to keep abreast of the legislature or perform corporate transactions. GeorgiaNet’s Legislative Services Package costs $200 per user I.D. It includes three features; Lobbyist-in-a-Box lets users create custom lists of bills to monitor with automatic updates; Daily Press Pack sends subscribers all the information from each day’s legislative press pack; and Automatic E-Mail Notification provides instant notice of text and status changes to bills. For those handling corporate business, certified corporation documents can be purchased online from the Secretary of State’s office at www.ganet.org/sosdocs. Documents can be obtained with a major credit card or can be charged to a GeorgiaNet account. The signup fee is just $10. Corporation records can be searched, retrieved, and imported into a database. Users can search by jurisdiction, type, date, city, zip code, and status. This information is ordered using a major credit card. Look for online posting to grow in the state. Unlike many e-businesses, Georgia profits from its Internet endeavors. Last year GeorgiaNet earned $18 million. Its premium services account for some of this revenue, as does the sale of bulk data to information services, such as the sale of driver’s license information to insurance companies. EASING THE CORPORATE CRUNCH The Secretary of State Corporations Division handles thousands of requests a week from law firms and businesses that want to create corporations or verify information. Much of that work is now performed electronically, says Secretary Cox. Individuals can renew and file registration; order status certificates and certified copies; request name reservations; pay filing fees; and download forms. Conducting official business isn’t a problem, since Georgia, like most states, recognizes the electronic signature as a way of binding contracts. Also on Cox’s agenda: converting professional discipline orders to an online database. The process will take several months to complete. It will then be possible to learn with a mouse-click if –and how –state-licensed professionals have been disciplined. “This opens up a whole world of government services, when we can make all of this information available to people,” Cox says. LAWYERS APPRECIATE EASE Lawyers who use the state’s Internet services are delighted by its simplicity, Cox says. “There is not a week that goes by since I have been in this office that I have not had lawyers, paralegals, and legal secretaries down on their knees saying ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’ ” Cox says. But she laments that many lawyers still don’t use the Internet. “Wake up; it’s the year 2000,” Cox urges the uninitiated. “Your practice can be made so much easier, you can finish tasks so much quicker, you will make money faster, your clients will be happier.” Cox jokes that there’s no shame in putting one’s fingers to a keyboard. “Lawyers who believe only a secretary can use a keyboard are living in the Dark Ages.” The following are legal and law enforcement Web sites maintained by the state of Georgia. Included are some features of each site that lawyers may find especially useful. This is not a complete listing of the contents of each site; lawyers are encouraged to browse sites relevant to their practice areas. Court of Appeals of Georgia www.appeals.courts.state.ga.us � Calendar � Rules � Searchable database of opinions Department of Banking and Finance www.ganet.org/dbf � Forms and applications � Regulatory publications/bulletins Department of Community Affairs www.dca.state.ga.us � Publications � Landlord/Tenant Handbook � Rental Assistance-Section 8 � Section 8 Landlord Handbook � Model Law Enforcement Operations Manual Department of Education www.doe.k12.ga.us � Legal services � Legislation and special projects Department of Juvenile Justice www.djj.state.ga.us Department of Labor www.dol.state.ga.us � Child labor information � Employer required posters � Layoffs & closing � Safety engineering Department of Natural Resources www.ganet.org/dnr � Rules and Regulations for the Environmental Protection Division � Wildlife Resources Division Department of Revenue www2.state.ga.us/Departments/DOR/ � Forms � Legislation � Revenue rules and regulations Georgia Bureau of Investigation www.ganet.org/gbi � List of state registered sex offenders � Crime statistics � Fugitive information � Unsolved cases Georgia Division of Public Health www.ph.dhr.state.ga.us � Information for obtaining vital records Georgia Legislature www.state.ga.us/ serviceseg � Legislative searches � Index of bills � 1999/2000 passed legislation � Meeting notices Georgia Merit System www.GMS.State.Ga.US � Rules of State Personnel Board GeorgiaNet Authority www.ganet.org � Unannotated Georgia Code Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs www2.state.ga.us/GaOCA � Consumer and business use forms Indigent Defense Counsel www.gidc.com � Staff and division directory � Guidelines � Court interpreter information � Multilingual forms Office of Attorney General www.ganet.org/ago � Opinions Office of Secretary of State www.sos.state.ga.us � Searchable corporate databases � Renewal and registration filing � Status certificates and certified copies � Corporate filing fee payment � Online requests for name reservations � Filing procedures � Forms Office of State Administrative Hearings www.ganet.org/osah � OSAH Rules � Ga. Administrative Procedure Act � Forms Prosecuting Attorney’s Counsel of Georgia www.ganet.org/pacg � Searchable database of DAs and solicitors State Bar of Georgia www.gabar.org State Board of Pardons and Paroles www.pap.state.ga.us � General information on parole decisions Supreme Court of Georgia www2.state.ga.us/Courts/Supreme � Court calendar and case synopsis � Searchable database of opinions � Opinion summaries � Recent certioraris � Supreme court rules and procedures � Uniform Court Rules � Unified Appeal

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