For the longest time, law firms have been resistant to change - their conservative processes a rusty relic of a bygone era.
However, the rapid advances in technology and COVID-19 have transformed the way these businesses operate. Apart from the widespread use of video and collaboration apps for client interactions and remote-access VPN for telecommuting employees, attorneys are taking to eSignature solutions like fish to water. More legal documents are being shared, stored, and signed digitally than ever before. Such innovations in documentation processes are what will give your law firm a competitive edge, in terms of greater employee productivity and faster closing of deals. But, are electronic signatures recognized by common or statute law? The short answer is ‘yes, absolutely!'
Read on as we deep-dive into the nitty-gritty of the legality of eSignature solutions.
The legality of eSignature - A summary
eSignatures are 100% legal. And they have been so for decades now (over 20 years).
It was in 1999-2000, with the adoption of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the passage of Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), that eSignature started becoming mainstream.
Both ESIGN and UETA establish that electronic records and signatures are court-admissible evidence. And that they have the same legal effect as physical ink on paper.
It also signified that any document with eSignatures had to be accepted, considered valid, and enforced for all legal intents and purposes.
And for your electronically signed document will be considered valid and legal, you need to:
- Offer an in-depth audit trail, linking the eSignature to the document
- Demonstrate an intent to sign by all parties involved in the document
- Showcase that parties involved in the contract/transaction offer their consent to do business electronically
- Send signed copies to all signers and retain these records securely
Luckily, advanced eSignature solutions like Signeasy automatically take care of all these law firm eSignature requirements.
Law firm eSignature: Abilities and future
For busy law firms and lawyers, time is literally money (after all, they charge by the hour). eSignature solutions can do away with physical signing and manually following up with signers, to reduce your staff’s time and effort spent on paperwork.
But, are all documents signed with eSignatures legally admissible in court? Let's find out.
Spoiler alert: In most cases, electronic signatures are legally admissible, but there are exceptions to this rule, which vary from state to state. So lawyers must familiarize themselves with the local laws.
Here are some of the everyday documents that law firms may send to clients using an eSignature solution:
- Fee agreements
- New hire documentation
- Policy management
- Audit and inventory sign-offs
- Incident reports
- Pleadings and depositions
- Shareholder agreements
- Purchase orders and statements of work
- Master service agreements
- Medical releases
Typically, you cannot use electronic signatures on documents that are required to be in writing, physically signed in the presence of witnesses, and/or formally notarized.
Here are a bunch of contracts that will be deemed valid only if processed in the traditional way:
- Wills, codicils, and testamentary trusts
- Adoption, divorce, or other family law matters
- Official court documents
- Documents governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”)
- Termination of health or life insurance benefits
- Documentation related to the transportation or handling of hazardous materials
But these limitations are also rapidly lifting.
In 2019, legislation was approved that allows for wills to be signed online. Leading the charge for e-signing of wills in Florida. In Nevada and Indiana, notaries have been authorized to create electronic wills.
Meanwhile, several states now allow for remote notarization of many legal documents.
Over the next few months, as touchless documentation becomes non-negotiable, more states are expected to make provisions for eSignatures to become accepted across contract types.
How to persuade lawyers to use eSignatures
Law firms can collect electronic signatures from employees, customers, and partners in a secure, legal, cost-effective, hygienic, and productive manner.
Here is why a solution like Signeasy is a great choice for your law firm:
- Pandemic-friendly: Especially in the age of social distancing, law firms can remotely acquire new business and maintain business continuity without having to print a physical copy, or mail or fax records.
- Greater productivity: By digitizing and automating the signing workflow, Signeasy streamlines day-to-day responsibilities so that advocates can spend less time on paperwork and more on ensuring client satisfaction.
- Digital audit trail: In case there are any concerns around the authenticity of the eSignature, Signeasy offers court-admissible proof by offering access to a log of details such as the email address of the signer, device IP address, timestamp of the signature, and document fingerprint for all relevant parties. With Signeasy, no one can doubt the legality of eSignatures anymore.
- Quick and easy to use: Our intuitive electronic signature solution accelerates document turnaround time. So, what used to take days to get signed for all relevant parties, now gets done in a matter of minutes.
- Convenience: Imagine how thrilled your clients would be if they didn't have to take off from work every time a legal document had to be signed, when they could confidentially do so from anywhere and at any time with Signeasy!
- Secure: All your client information is secured from unauthorized access, forgery, or tampering thanks to the 256-bit SSL encryption, along with secure passcode and fingerprint-based authentication.
Find out more about the benefits of using electronic signatures for approving your client’s documents today!