It wasn’t long ago that executives were using ink and a rubber stamp to “sign” documents. In an effort to speed the process of signing, they would entrust their stamp to another “authorized user” who could stamp or “sign” documents on their behalf. The premise was that if the person had physical access to the stamp pad, then they must be an approved user and have the authority to sign agreements or other legal documents.
Fast forward to the even more not-so-distant past and you will find electronic documents that were “signed” when someone added a signature image to the document. Anyone can drop a JPEG onto a contract, although the assumption is that if they have access to the signature file, then they must be authorized to sign on the individual’s behalf. This is where the process breaks down. With signature images such as these, there is no quick and easy way to verify that the individual or someone they authorized was the actual signor of a document. No audit trail or metadata exists to prove whether it was an approved, authorized signature and not a fake.
The troubling part is, we continue to see these short cuts in the signature process all the time. As lawyers, it is our responsibility to make a reasonable argument to a court about why we believe a signature is valid. You may find yourself making logical arguments such as, it came from the correct email address or domain, it was the correct draft, or it included what appeared to be a valid written signature. Electronic signature images on electronic documents make it harder to validate that it was the person who affixed it themselves or someone authorized to do so on their behalf. Don’t get me started on how many people have tried to get out of a contract claiming the person who affixed the signature didn’t have authority – mind you, after a year of beneficially using the software.
Digital signatures are another type of electronic signature; however, they are like having a fingerprint on the document. They are tied to a certificate that always includes an audit trail which means that at any point, you can see when it was sent, who received it, what time, etc. Additionally, the signature itself is time and date stamped automatically. This digital trail gives you something to follow and provide proof that the signor was who they said they were. This trail is so clear in fact that digital signatures are rarely contested. Indeed, they are accepted in most courts thanks to the clear chain of custody from sending to signing. As they say in many (very small) circles, it is as good as being signed, sealed, and stamped.
What makes a digital signature service an absolute requirement for any legal professional or law firm? As you know, inclusive of contracts, any transactional document that needs a signature must withstand scrutiny in court. Everything from real estate transactions and acquisitions, to wills and trusts, estate directives, etc. must include an authorized signature that can be certified or validated in the court of law.
Here are 6 reasons why a law firm or legal professional wants to use electronic signature (or e-signature) services that follow the digital signature guidelines:
Modern legal transactions demand the convenient and compliant nature of today’s e-signature tools. But with new tools comes new tasks to ensure documents end up in the right place—which can reduce your overall pace.
The fact is, you don’t have time to waste on new tools that can reduce your speed to delivery. At NetDocuments we are focused on removing the burdensome tasks associated with legal document creation and management; and our new electronic signature integration with DocuSign eSignature is the latest addition in that effort and combines the convenience of signing almost anywhere at any time with the security of a digital fingerprint.
With this integration, users can select documents from NetDocuments and automatically send them to eSignature with a single click.
Once a document is selected, the user can select recipients, who will then receive an email generated by eSignature.
This email will allow the recipients to easily review or sign the selected document. Once the document is signed, the executed PDF is automatically uploaded into NetDocuments and the original file is linked to the executed document in order to maintain a clear paper trail.
Lawyers everywhere are burning out and clients are less likely to pay for time spent on administrative tasks. While an e-signature tool may relieve the time burdens associated with the printing, scanning, sending, signing and tracking of traditional signatures, downloading and transferring prepared or signed documents between your systems can still add steps and clicks to an already packed process.
But as my colleague explains, the right legal technology can certainly relieve these extra steps when implemented correctly.
It stands to reason then that the key to a trusted and powerful e-signature tool truly unlocking productivity for your team is its ability to integrate with your document storage system, such as NetDocuments. The ability to have signed and tracked copies of a document automatically stored within your system of record will be vital to your team’s ability to remain focused on critical tasks—not the everyday administrative ones. Only then will gathering signatures become a clean, secure process that your team can count on every time.
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