I was vaguely aware of electronic recording, but I had not previously heard of any local jurisdictions adopting it.
After reading the news about Rockingham County, I did a little research.
CSC's website has this diagram of the electronic recording process.
I gather that there are several companies that offer electronic recording services. The larger firms include Simplifile (here), eDocs Solutions (here), and Ingeo (here).
Interestingly, Corporation Service Company (the leading provider of registered agent and corporate maintenance services) recently purchased Ingeo, so I assume that CSC has identified electronic recording as a growth industry.
The e-recording companies provide software that enables law firms and settlement companies to electronically transmit deeds, deeds of trust, etc., to the Clerk's Office. The original document remains in the transmitter's possession.
Upon receipt, the staff at the Clerk's Office reviews the electronic copy prior to uploading it to the land records system. My understanding is that there are a number of safeguards against fraud or the recording of invalid documents.
In Virginia, at least ten jurisdictions have adopted e-recording systems, including the aforementioned Rockingham County as well as Loudoun County, Prince William County, and the cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk.
I haven't spoken with any attorneys who use electronic recording, so I do not know whether the reception in Rockingham and other places has been positive.
I certainly can imagine the benefits of electronic recording: convenience, efficiency, and cost-savings, to name a few.
On the other hand, if Charlottesville and/or Albemarle were to adopt electronic recording, I worry about the human interaction that would probably be lost -- gone the way of the phone conversations and face-to-face meetings that have largely been replaced by e-mails.
One of my favorite parts about practicing law in a small town has been walking over to the Courthouses to review or record documents. It gives me the chance to get away from my computer screen and to catch my breath.
I enjoy seeing Bruce Maxa and Phillip from Blue Ridge, hard at work in the records room, and it is fun to chat with Margaret when I record in Albemarle. I look forward to the changing arrangements of the flower beds in Jackson Park.
Sometimes when I cross the Park, I imagine my grandfather and Juni Fishburne taking a similar stroll in the 1950's; or when I look through the deed books I picture my dad and Rick Carter, circa 1977, running into each other at the Clerk's Office and talking about the latest Redskins game.
Technology can be a good thing, and I am probably sentimentalizing a process that can often be stressful or mundane. But I do worry about what will be left if we reduce everything to an image on a computer screen.
Some days I even like the musty smell of the Deed Books...