Agreements are everywhere in the legal industry. Lawyers have to deal with retainer and client documents, engagement agreements, legal contracts and agreements, assent forms and permission forms and contracts, legal NDAs, partnership agreements, statements of work, audit and inventory signoffs, board minutes, policy management and compliance, and much more on a daily basis.
In recent years, cloud-based technology has made virtual law firm models both feasible (and profitable) and distant legal employment increasingly prevalent. You’ve probably faced a number of difficulties as you navigated the practical aspects of learning how to work from home, especially in light of the current global crisis that is forcing legal professionals to work remotely.
Many lawyers have had to make considerable adaptations when switching to working from home, from adjusting to technological changes (such as using a remote-access VPN) to engaging with clients and colleagues from a distance (with video conversations being a regular reality). This takes us to the topic of converting one of the most fundamental components of legal work—signatures—to the digital age.
Is it conceivable (and legal) to utilise electronic signatures on legal documents when you can’t meet your clients in person?
YES, in a lot of instances. The foundations of using electronic signatures for lawyers—regardless of whether you operate from home or in the office—are covered in the following guide.
Why use digital e-signatures?
In recent years, lawyers have had to quickly expand the range of their remote work options. However, there are a number of enduring advantages to adopting electronic signatures in the contemporary legal environment.
Electronic signatures offer three significant advantages to solicitors when utilised properly and under the appropriate conditions:
- They are more practical.
It might be difficult to coordinate handwritten signatures for contracts and other legally binding documents. The procedure is streamlined, there is less chance of human error, and there is less need for in-person meetings or dealing with physical documents thanks to electronic signatures.
- They expedite legal work.
Meeting clients merely to obtain a signature takes away significant time from your workday, even when it is safe to do so. E-signatures expedite the process for everyone involved and save time.
- Less paper is used.
Consider a scenario in which you are working remotely from a small home office or your company is making the switch to a paperless workplace. Less paper equals less chance of filing mistakes and less time spent sorting through paper in both situations. Additionally, retrieving signed documents in the future will be quicker and simpler with electronic access.
Are electronic signatures legal?
Electronic signatures can make document signing faster and easier for you and your clients—but are they allowed, and legal? The answer is YES.
EU Regulation (No 910/2014) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS) that came into effect on 1 July 2016, established an EU-wide legal framework for electronic signatures and other trust services, effectively making electronic signatures legal in all 27 EU Member States without any need for national implementation. Following the UK’s departure from the European Union (Brexit), the essence of eIDAS has been retained – with some minor changes – in UK law.
This means electronic signatures are granted the same legal status as handwritten signatures.
With electronic and digital signatures on the rise, organizations can now close deals faster across nations. However, countries have their own rules regarding electronic signatures, which can be checked in this link.
When e-signatures won’t work? It’s crucial to remember that there are several exclusions and situations when e-signatures won’t function, even though they have the same legal standing as handwritten signatures in some places. For instance, many states require a wet signature for certain types of papers, such as wills, in order for them to be valid. Make sure you are familiar with the laws in your country and are aware of the situations in which an electronic signature is insufficient.
Electronic signature tools for lawyers
DocuSign is one of the pioneers in the development of e-signature technology, and today DocuSign helps organizations connect and automate how they prepare, sign, act on, and manage agreements. DocuSign offers eSignature: the world’s #1 way to sign electronically on practically any device, from almost anywhere, at any time. Legacy, paper-based agreement processes are manual, slow, expensive, and error-prone. DocuSign eliminates the paper, automates the process, and connects to other systems that businesses are already using. Legal professionals have adapted to remote work and use e-signature software to save time and reduce in-person meetings.
Empower your teams to quickly prepare, route and approve agreements so they can focus on the big picture with Thread and DocuSign e-signature integration.
Get going quickly with dynamic document generation, collaborate with comments and shared templates and take advantage of configurable workflows to tackle your trickiest agreement challenges. Protect your agreements with enterprise-grade security and compliance controls without sacrificing the user experience.
DocuSign is the missing part for the document management functionality of Thread and the integration is now available so that you can manage your agreements from start to end. Just use your existing DocuSign account and the program will pull all the contact, case and file information from Thread Software, a process made easier, faster and more secure.
While working remotely may require some getting used to, legal professionals are stepping up and figuring out how to innovate, adapt, and operate more efficiently while they’re not in the office. Using safe, user-friendly e-signature software will save you time and eliminate the need for in-person meetings to obtain signatures, whether you’re working from home temporarily or permanently, as long as you’re aware of your region’s e-signature regulations and the kinds of papers you’re handling.