Real estate records become electronic

LAWRENCEVILLE - Between 1871 and 1948 - the year Tom Lawler was born - Gwinnett County's real estate transactions filled 100 deed books.

But by 2002, Lawler's clerk of court office was binding 100 books

per week.

With 300 pages per book, that's "a tremendous amount of paper," Lawler said.

But his office now saves trees, after converting all the county's real estate records to electronic files.

"I thought we were going to have to buy a Wal-Mart to put all those books in," Lawler said with a laugh as he dedicated his office's new real estate records home Tuesday. Lawler pointed out that the county did buy an old Wal-Mart for storage, but he said, "I'm glad we didn't have to put the books in it."

In addition to the 132,000 civil and criminal cases the clerk's office handled in 2007, the office also processed 254,000 deed instruments.

"We do all this in a county that has been growing wildly over the years," Lawler said, adding that an advantage of the new electronic system is that the record room will never have to be expanded. Officials are still required to print indexes for the records every several months.

Lawler said he was able to set up the six-year project to convert 12 million files to electronic format at a huge savings, creating an agreement with the Superior Court Clerks Cooperative Authority for a cost of $270,000. Using a bid process for the software, he said, could have cost the county up to $10 million.

Residents can access the records at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center for free, with a cost of 25 cents per copy or subscribe to a statewide online database at www.gsccca.org.