A Juricert update

What's ahead for lawyers online

With the long-awaited Land Title Office electronic filing system expected to debut in the spring of 2004, BC law firms will wish to ensure that computer systems in their firms are ready to support the electronic preparation and filing of LTO documents. Lawyers should also take the opportunity well in advance of the project to register individually with Juricert (www.juricert.com), the Law Society's online professional authentication service. Juricert will play a key role in the new filing project by verifying the professional status of BC lawyers who submit documents for registration at the LTO. Here is an overview of the LTO e-filing project, as well as a brief look at other technology projects for which Juricert verifies the online identity of BC lawyers.

By this time next year, the Land Title Office should be ready to accept electronic filing of the Form A Freehold Transfer, the Form B Mortgage, Form C documents and Property Transfer Tax returns.

Electronic filing has been a strategic priority of the Land Title Branch (now part of the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management) for the past five years. In 1998 a broad-based Electronic Filing Committee, which included Law Society representation, began identifying the legal, policy and practice issues associated with e-filing. That work led to new provincial legislation recognizing the validity of electronic documents as well several phases of development towards e-filing infrastructure at the Land Title Office.

MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates have been retained to build the new e-filing system.

What computer systems will law firms need?

In the initial stages of the Land Title Office project, lawyers will be able to e-file Forms A, B and C, as well as property transfer tax returns. The Land Title Office plans to provide these forms in portable document format (PDF), featuring data fields that can be completed electronically using Adobe Acrobat. Most lawyers will already be familiar with viewing PDF documents on the internet with Adobe Acrobat Reader (free software available for download from the Adobe website). Fewer may be aware of the full version of the Acrobat software, which allows for the creation and completion of PDF documents, including forms.

BC lawyers and their conveyancing staff will need to use the full version of Acrobat (standard or professional) to complete the forms. The software is available for purchase from software retailers and online from Adobe (www.adobe.com/acrofamily/main.html). Although the Land Title Office to date has considered its filing requirements would be based on Adobe Acrobat Version 5.0, a version 6.0 was recently released. The Land Title Branch is evaluating the impact of the version change, and will advise the profession on the specific version that will be supported by the e-filing system.

In preparing for e-filing in the coming months, law firms should ensure their conveyancing practices feature the following:

  • Windows operating system 98SE or higher (Note: support for current Macintosh systems is also possible.)
  • Adobe Acrobat 5.0 or 6.0 (see page 14 for minimum system requirements for version 6.0)
  • a BC OnLine account
  • the best broadband internet access a firm can afford, with a dial-up account for backup
  • e-mail, preferably a program that supports digital signatures and encryption for secure communications
  • a Juricert-authenticated signing certificate (see below)

Registration with Juricert

Any lawyer who plans to file documents electronically at the LTO should take steps in the coming months to register with Juricert (www.juricert.com), the Law Society's online professional authentication service, if he or she has not already done so.

On the Juricert website, a lawyer is asked to fill out an online application, print the application, have his or her signature on the document witnessed and submit it to Juricert. Once the Law Society authenticates the lawyer's identity and professional status in accordance with internal records, Juricert creates a "trusted digital credential" for the lawyer. This credential is then used as the basis for the issuance of the necessary digital certificates that are used as part of the e-filing process.

By digitally signing land title documents the lawyer is verifying that he or she is a lawyer (and an officer under the Land Title Act).

 

How a conveyance will proceed under e-filing

An underlying principle of the new e-filing system is that it will not mandate fundamental changes to conveyancing practice.

In accordance with practice in BC, it is therefore expected that the purchaser's lawyer, with the assistance of his or her staff, will continue to prepare the transfer package in residential conveyances under e-filing. Rather than creating the Form A Transfer (and other forms) in word processing software, however, the purchaser's lawyer and staff will do so in Adobe Acrobat software by filling out pre-determined fields. (For firms that rely on conveyancing software, it can reasonably be expected that those software companies will modify their packages to integrate the new Adobe documents.)

Each person within a firm who drafts a land title form for electronic filing, and each lawyer who signs the form as officer, will need access to Adobe Acrobat software: see What computer systems will law firms need?

Form AAn example of Form A can be viewed by clicking on the icon to the right.

(PDF: 1065 KB)

Assuming conveyancing staff have created a transfer form in Adobe Acrobat, the lawyer will review that form along with all other documents in the package with the client. The lawyer's staff will forward the transfer package, with statement of adjustments, to the vendor's lawyer either electronically or as paper copies. The vendor's lawyer will witness execution of a paper copy of the transfer by the vendor and will sign the transfer as certifying officer. In practice, the purchaser's lawyer will need a hard copy of this signed transfer for his or her files. No hard copies will be used in electronic submissions to the Land Title Office.

As is now the case, the purchaser's lawyer must review all documents prior to submission to the LTO. Under e-filing, the lawyer will digitally sign and lock each document prior to submission, (typically the transfer, mortgage and property transfer tax form).

The actual submission of the digitally signed documents can be carried out by the lawyer's staff or third parties such as registration agents. They will log into BC Online and upload the signed documents for submission. It is anticipated that the Law Society Rules will require amendment to allow for a preauthorized debit for electronic payment of property transfer taxes. The Land Title Office system is expected to feature built-in checks on the submission, to ensure that the correct form version is used, that the digital signature is valid and that documents are not missing and are in the right order.

The Land Title Office is able to check a lawyer's digital signature and to verify the practising status of the lawyer through current Law Society data provided by Juricert.

There will undoubtedly be many practice issues that need to be tackled as the Land Title Office e-filing project is introduced, and BC lawyers in real estate practice will wish to watch for upcoming continuing legal education programs and materials. The Electronic Filing Steering Committee (with representation from the provincial government, the Law Society, the CBA (BC Branch) and the Society of Notaries Public) is expected to clarify key practice points. Comments from BC lawyers are welcome.

Other doors Juricert is opening

While actively participating in the LTO e-filing project, Juricert also monitors other government and court e-filing projects, both at home and abroad. Juricert has collaborated in a recent pilot at the Supreme Court of Canada and is well positioned to carry out the online authentication of professionals within any future registries.

One of the first projects off the ground in BC is the Nidus e-Registry, a voluntary, non-governmental registry operated by the Representation Agreements Resource Centre in Vancouver. The registry accepts filings of representation agreements and enduring powers of attorney (or notices of these documents) from across BC. Lawyers and notaries wishing to file documents in the registry on behalf of clients must first be authenticated with Juricert. For more information, see the March-April Benchers' Bulletin.

On another front, Juricert is in discussion with RegistryPro Inc. - the official registry authorized to issue .pro top-level domains on the internet. Slated for introduction in the near future, the .pro domain will be strictly reserved for the websites and email addresses of accredited professionals, including lawyers. Juricert is seeking to authenticate the professional status of BC lawyers - and possibly lawyers across Canada - who apply for .pro domain names for their firm websites (e.g. XYZlawfirm.pro).

A key advantage of Juricert digital credentials is that they are designed to integrate with many online applications and services of interest to lawyers, both in the public and private sectors. Accordingly, Juricert now authenticates the online identity of BC lawyers who wish access to services and products offered by several private companies - including those that facilitate secure and private communication between lawyers and their clients. For more information, visit the Juricert website (www.juricert.com).

Juricert contacts

The Law Society and Juricert Services would like to advise that Peter Baran, CEO of Juricert Services, has accepted a position with AGTI Consulting Services (West) Inc. Mr. Baran will continue his involvement with Juricert as a consultant on special projects.

The new management team at Juricert Services is comprised of Jim Matkin, QC who continues as President of Juricert; Ron Usher who will assume responsibility as CEO for Juricert while continuing as Staff Lawyer, Practice Opportunities for the Law Society; Adam Whitcombe, CIO for the Law Society, who will also assume responsibility as CIO of Juricert; Neil Stajkowski, CFO for the Law Society who continues in his role as CFO for Juricert and Katherine Potter who continues as the Marketing and Customer Service Manager for Juricert.

If you would like to know more about the Land Title Office e-filing project or any of the other projects supported by Juricert, please contact Ron Usher at 604 605-5310 (rusher@lsbc.org) or Katherine Potter at 604 605-5363 (kpotter@juricert.ca).

To register with Juricert, go to www.juricert.com.

 

Computer system requirements for the Land Title Office e-filing project

Here are the minimum system requirements for Adobe Acrobat 6.0:

Acrobat 6.0 Professional (Windows)

  • Pentium®-class processor
  • Microsoft® Windows Operating System
  • Windows NT Workstation 4.0 sp6
  • Windows 2000 Professional sp2
  • Windows XP Professional & Home
  • Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
  • 64 MB of RAM (128 MB recommended)
  • 245 MB of available hard-disk space
  • Internet Explorer 5.X or higher

Acrobat 6.0 Standard (Windows)

  • Pentium®-class processor
  • Microsoft® Windows Operating System
  • Windows 98 SE
  • Windows NT Workstation 4.0 sp6
  • Windows 2000 Professional sp2
  • Windows XP Professional & Home
  • Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
  • 64 MB of RAM (128 MB recommended)
  • 220 MB of available hard-disk space
  • Internet Explorer 5.X or higher

Acrobat 6.0 Professional (Mac)

  • PowerPC® G3 or higher processor
  • Mac® OS X 10.2.2 or higher
  • 64 MB of RAM (128 MB recommended)
  • 405 MB of available hard-disk space

Acrobat 6.0 Standard (Mac)

  • PowerPC® G3 or higher processor
  • Apple® Mac® OS X 10.2.2 or higher
  • 64 MB of RAM (128 MB recommended)
  • 370 MB of available hard-disk space