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Easy access to a wealth of information and services is just a click away with the revamped State Bar of Texas Web site unveiled at the Bar board of directors meeting on Jan. 23. “This is extreme makeover for the State Bar of Texas,” Mark Osborn, chairman of the Bar’s Technology Oversight Subcommittee, told the board during a sneak preview of the revised Web site, www.texasbar.com, which became operational Feb. 1. Osborn, a partner in Kemp Smith in El Paso, says in an interview that the first new feature on the Web site is the State Bar of Texas Judicial Poll. When balloting in the poll on statewide judicial candidates began on Feb. 2, Bar members, for the first time, have an opportunity to cast a ballot online. Kelley Jones King, director of the Bar’s communications division, says e-mails would be sent to almost 50,000 members for whom the Bar has e-mail addresses to notify them that they can participate in the poll online. Bar members who don’t want to vote in the poll online still can obtain paper ballots, King says. To assure the integrity of the poll, King says, the balloting process will mirror early voting in the elections for political offices. After the online voting period ends, the Bar will compile a list of those who voted that will be checked to make sure they don’t also vote on paper ballots, she says. Osborn says he also expects Bar members to be able to vote online if the Bar holds a referendum on several issues, including attorney referral fees, in October. State Bar President Betsy Whitaker, who says in an interview that she has pushed for the technology update as part of her commitment to make the Bar more relevant to its members, notes that new features will continue to pop up on the Web site. For example, when bills go out in May for Bar dues, the $200 state occupation tax and the new $65 add-on fee to support legal services for the poor, attorneys will be able to make all those payments online. “This is a way for them to do business with the Bar online at 10 o’clock in the evening, if they want to,” Whitaker, a partner in the Dallas office of Bracewell & Patterson, says. Another feature is the eBay module. King says lawyers can access the eBay module — as well as other services — through the “My Bar Page” that each member can register for through the Web site. Law-related items, including books and equipment, up for sale on eBay will appear on My Bar Page, she says. GOT CLE? Lawyers also can check the Web site to see the continuing legal education courses that are available and check on the number of CLE hours they have, King says. The price tag for providing such conveniences isn’t small. King says the overhaul of the Web site cost the Bar almost $600,000, part of which came out of the Bar’s technology fund in fiscal years 2003 and 2004. The Bar also tapped the budget for its communications division for part of the money, she says. This is the second time that the Bar has made a major technological upgrade. In 2001, while Haynes and Boone partner Lynne Liberato of Houston was the Bar president, Texas lawyers could find an array of free services through a Web portal — mytexasbar.com, — designed by Craig Ball, then-chairman of the Bar’s Technology Advisory Committee. Whitaker says the Bar now is taking “the next step” in improving its technology and making more services available online. Osborn says lawyers now will be able to click on cases cited in articles that appear on the Web site and go directly to the cases without paying a fee. In the past, he says, lawyers have had to go to another database to look up cases that have been cited. “Now, it will be like turning the pages of a book,” he says. The Web site also offers a case alert service. For example, a lawyer interested in insurance coverage cases can get all the cases in Texas that are related to that practice area, Osborn says. Fort Worth’s 48th District Judge David Evans, co-chairman of the Bar’s Web Services Committee, says the upgrade in technology will help him to quickly find the law relevant to any case he is hearing so that he can be aware of the same cases that lawyers in the case have been looking at. Judges can sign up for a service that provides the same information, but they have to pay for that service out of their own pockets, Evans says. The most important aspect for the public, Osborn says, is they can check the Web site to find the names of all lawyers in a specific practice area in a particular Texas city. Lawyers and firms will have an opportunity to purchase links to their Web sites, where the public can get more information, he says. Whitaker says the Web site is designed to be something that serves lawyers and the Bar has embedded a feedback feature in the site so that lawyers can make comments. “They can tell us what they like and tell us what they don’t like,” she says.

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