Sometimes, I use Google for Legal Research

I received an e-mail from a potential client this week that sort of confused me. Frankly, I didn’t know the answer.

The dispute related to a term I hadn’t seen before. The issue involved a check that his bank had returned, unpaid, to the other bank as “Return to Maker.” When I saw that, I went around the other bank lawyers. That’s my real “first step in researching weird legal issues”–asking the older bank lawyers if they’ve ever seen this.

When they either hadn’t (or weren’t at their desks), well, I consulted Google.

And, sure, you’re probably thinking that a lawyer shouldn’t admit to googling legal questions, but you’re wrong. Google is great to get general answers or concepts, before digging down on Westlaw.

In fact, I suspect Google is how the readers of this blog got here. But, Google can’t be entirely trusted, and you have to consider the legitimacy and trust-worthiness of the source when you click on the results.

So, yes, I found out that “return to maker” means, generally, that the payor bank has reason to deny the check due to a suspicion that the negotiable instrument has been forged, modified, or is generally unsure of the legitimacy. That note instructs the drawee bank to revisit the issue with their customer.

With that information (and before I gave out any legal advice), I did that deep dive on Westlaw  to confirm my analysis under Tennessee’s UCC adoption of Article 3.

So, there you have it. If a lawyer denies using Google, don’t believe them.


Tennessee Secretary of State to launch new online UCC filing system on July 1, 2013

The ability to file documents online is one of the many ways technology has made the practice of law easier. Faced with a looming deadline, attorneys no longer need to rush to the Courthouse before closing time. Nowadays, they pdf their pleading and can upload it at 11:59 from home.

Starting on July 1, 2013, the Tennessee Secretary of State will allow parties to make Tennessee Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings online. Information about this program can be found in this release.

To prepare Tennessee UCC filers for this process, the Secretary of State has posted a number of links to a number of training videos, which cover topics such as:

  • Filing a Tennessee UCC1 Financing Statement
  • Filing a Tennessee UCC3 Amendment – Termination
  • Filing a Tennessee UCC3 Amendment – Continuation
  • Filing a Tennessee UCC3 Amendment – Party Update
  • Filing a Tennessee UCC3 Amendment – Assignment
  • Filing a Tennessee UCC3 Amendment – Collateral and Max Indebtedness Change
  • Filing a Tennessee UCC5 Information Statement
  • Filing a Tennessee UCC11 Information Request
  • Searching the Tennessee UCC Database

The electronic filing system also coincides with the implementation of the 2010 Amendments to UCC Article 9, which also become effective on July 1, 2013. I’ll discuss those in a later post.

For now, I’ll say that I’m really excited about the prospect of filing and searching UCC records online. This is a great development for Tennessee lawyers.