The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 12-2

September 21, 2012
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
A lawyer may provide their log-in credentials to the E-Portal to trusted nonlawyer employees for
the employees to file court documents that have been reviewed and approved by the lawyer, who
remains responsible for the filing. The lawyer must properly supervise the nonlawyer, should
monitor the nonlawyer’s use of the E-Portal, and should immediately change the lawyer’s
password if the nonlawyer employee leaves the lawyer’s employ or shows untrustworthiness in
use of the E-Portal.
This opinion was affirmed by the Board of Governors at its December 7, 2012 meeting.

4-5.3, 4-5.5
In re Amendments to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure et al., ___ So.3d ___,
37 Fla. L. Weekly S638 (Fla. 2012) [102 So.3d 451]
Rules of Judicial Administration: 2.060(d), 2.420, 2.425, 2.515
The Professional Ethics Committee has been asked by The Florida Bar Board of
Governors to issue a formal opinion on whether lawyers may permit supervised nonlawyers to
use the lawyer’s access credentials (log-in name and password) for filing documents with a court
using the E-Portal.

The Supreme Court of Florida adopted amendments on June 21, 2012, to Florida rules of
court requiring mandatory electronic filing of all documents filed in Florida courts.1
Implementation of this order is by a schedule adopted by the Court in an administrative order.2
The implementation of mandatory filing will be phased in over time.3 Ultimately, all court
documents will be filed electronically unless exempted by the Court.4 Filing will occur via the
E-Portal, which is a single website to serve all Florida courts. The Florida Court’s E-Filing
Authority oversees the E-Portal and “was created pursuant to legislative directive to provide

1 In re Amendments to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, the
Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Florida Probate Rules, the Florida Small Claims Rules, the Florida Rules
of Juvenile Procedure, the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure—
Electronic Filing. ___ So.3d ___, 37 Fla. L. Weekly S638 (Fla. 2012).
2 Id.
4 In re Amendments, supra.

oversight to the development, implementation and operation of a statewide portal designed to
process the filing of court documents.”5
Currently, the E-Portal permits only lawyers to obtain a user name and password for
filing. Clerk’s offices have received communications from lawyers and others asking if a lawyer
may provide the lawyer’s log-in name and password to nonlawyers who are supervised by the
lawyer so that the nonlawyer may file documents electronically on the lawyer’s behalf.
The E-Portal Authority Board met on June 15, 2011, and unanimously adopted a motion
to allow a non-lawyer to use a lawyer’s credentials to electronically file documents via the EPortal under the direction or supervision of the lawyer.6 On September 28, 2011, the E-Filing
Authority Board voted to retract the policy that was adopted on June 15, 2011 and voted not to
take a position on the issue.7
The Florida Courts Technology Commission, which is responsible for developing
standards for e-filing, adopted at its September 26-27, 2011 meeting, a requirement to add the
following certification to the E-Portal:
I certify that the filing transmitted through the portal, including all
attachments contains no confidential or sensitive information, or that any such
confidential or sensitive information has been properly protected by complying
with the provisions of Rules 2.420 and 2.425, Florida Rules of Judicial
The certification was modified by the Florida Courts Technology Commission at its May
8-9, 2012 meeting as follows:
The attorney filing, or directing and authorizing this filing (including all
attachments), certifies that it contains no confidential or sensitive information, or
that any such confidential or sensitive information has been properly protected by
complying with the provisions of Rules 2.420 and 2.425, Florida Rules of Judicial

5 E-Filing Authority Board website:
6 E-Filing Authority Board June 15, 2011 minutes, available at:
7 E-Filing Authority Board September 28, 2011 minutes, available at:
8 Florida Courts Technology Commission September 26-27, 2011 minutes, available at:
9 Florida Courts Technology Commission May 8-9, 2012 minutes, available at:

The certification, which as of the date of this opinion had not yet been implemented, may
be in the form of a check box required to be checked before submitting a filing through the eportal or an affirmative statement regarding compliance with the referenced rules.
Rule 4-5.3 addresses a lawyer’s responsibility for the conduct of nonlawyer employees,
and provides in subdivision (c) that “[a]lthough paralegals or legal assistants may perform the
duties delegated to them by the lawyer without the presence or active involvement of the lawyer,
the lawyer shall review and be responsible for the work product of the paralegals or legal
assistants.” The comment further explains a lawyer’s ability to delegate, in stating that “[i]f an
activity requires the independent judgment and participation of the lawyer, it cannot be properly
delegated to a nonlawyer employee.”
This Committee has previously opined that a lawyer may not permit a nonlawyer
employee to sign the lawyer’s name together with the nonlawyer’s initials to discovery and
notices of hearing in Florida Ethics Opinion 87-11. That opinion was based, in part, on the then
existing Rule of Judicial Administration 2.060(d) which requires that all pleadings be signed by
at least one lawyer of record in the matter who is licensed in Florida or who has obtained
permission to appear in the matter in which the pleading is filed. Current Rule of Judicial
Administration 2.515 is substantially the same. This Committee was of the opinion that
permitting a nonlawyer to sign pleadings would be assisting in the unlicensed practice of law, in
violation of Rule 4-5.5, Rules of Professional Conduct.
The Committee is of the opinion that a properly supervised nonlawyer may use the
credentials of a lawyer to file documents via the E-Portal at that lawyer’s direction. Such a task
is akin to a nonlawyer transporting a properly prepared and signed pleading to the clerk’s office
and physically filing it, which is a ministerial task that may be properly delegated. The
Committee cautions that the lawyer will remain responsible for the nonlawyer’s conduct and
must properly supervise the nonlawyer. A prudent lawyer will monitor the nonlawyer’s activity
and should immediately change the lawyer’s password if a nonlawyer with access to the lawyer’s
credentials leaves the lawyer’s employ or demonstrates unreliability in using the E-Portal. The
Committee’s opinion would remain unchanged if the certification in its current form is added to
the E-Portal as a check box upon filing documents so long as the lawyer specifically reviews the
documents to be filed, ensures that the documents are in compliance with the confidentiality
provisions of Florida Rules of Judicial Administration 2.420 and 2.425, and instructs the
nonlawyer employee to make the certification upon filing the documents. This opinion is limited
to filing documents via the E-Portal and specifically does not address the issue of electronic
signing of pleadings.