Attorneys and lawyers are used to traditional processes of managing legal paperwork. But with the status quo prompting businesses to build a strong online presence, providing legal services remotely has become common practice.
As such, many industries, including the legal sector, espoused electronic signature use for a variety of documents.
The legal validity of documents and contracts in this industry is indispensable. With that in mind, do digital signatures for attorneys entail equal validity as ink-based signatures? In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide on electronic signatures for lawyers, their key benefits, and other legal considerations.
Legality of Electronic Signatures in the Legal Industry
Technological advancements made it possible for electronic signatures to come into existence. Electronic signatures especially gained popularity in the United States in the mid-1990s. Until finally, laws recognizing eSignatures as legally valid became instrumental to their common and standard use in document signing.
Among the laws that made eSignatures equal to their traditional counterparts are the following:
Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA)
Signed into law in 1999, UETA outlines the legal equivalence of digital signatures to paper ink signatures. Forty-seven US states adopted this law, while the other three have been obliged to create their own eSignature law equivalent. This makes eSignature use legally binding in all US states even for those that refuse to acknowledge UETA.
Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act
In 2000, the ESIGN Act proclaimed that electronic signatures bear the same legal weight as wet signatures. The federal ESIGN Act, at least in part, came into existence to resolve issues with states refusing to adopt UETA. The ESIGN Act became the unifying law for every US state to recognize eSignatures as valid and binding.
Both UETA and ESIGN Act serve to support the enforceability of digital signatures in electronic records. Therefore, documents signed electronically are legally valid as long as they comply with the regulations stipulated under the eSignature laws.
Requirements for eSignatures to Be Considered Binding
The eSignature laws mentioned above make it confirmatory that digital signatures are legally enforceable if they meet the following requirements:
- Signer intent. Digital signatures only become valid if both parties demonstrate intent to sign.
- Consent to conduct business electronically. There must be a mutual acknowledgment from both parties to do business electronically.
- Association of signature with the record. The signer’s electronic signature must leave a textual or graphical mark on the e-document to associate with the record.
- Record retention. For future reference, the electronic documents from which parties electronically signed must remain accessible after the signing.
Cases When eSignature Use Is Not Valid
Despite their admissibility in court, there are still instances when eSignature use is not preferred, if not wholly discouraged. In consequence, manual signatures are more favored in such circumstances. The following documents are when wet signatures are insisted over their digital equivalents:
- Wills and testamentary trusts
- Divorce and/or adoption papers
- Court orders
- Health or life insurance termination notices
- Notices of default, eviction, and foreclosure
- Permits for the transport of hazardous materials
It is important to refer to your jurisdiction regarding laws on eSignatures. This way, you are assured of whether an eSignature use is legally binding or invalid for a specific electronic transaction.
Benefits of Electronic Signatures for Lawyers and Law Firms
The practical use of digital signatures for lawyers cannot be more emphasized. The following are just some of the best advantages that digital attorney signatures bring.
Paper-based methods of signing documents would typically take days in the past. After signing the papers, you’d need to send the printed copies to the other party. Upon receiving, the latter would sign the documents and then send them back. This is a tedious and needlessly long process for lawyers and law firms.
When documents are sent and received electronically, they could be done in minutes and even seconds. Lawyers can also see and track the progress of legal papers through a real-time audit trail with instant alerts. This is a feature that most electronic signature platforms provide.
Just imagine the mountain of papers you’d need to deal with as a lawyer. Doing legal work the traditional way means wasted investment on paper reams, inks, and expensive equipment like scanners and printers. Courier services and storage maintenance costs are also factored in on traditional document management processes.
When using eSignatures through a software solution, you have the option to only pay for what you use it for. As your business needs expand, you can use an eSignature tool like Fill as long as you need it. Even then, the costs of papers, inks, equipment, and other maintenance needs remain greater than investing in an eSignature solution.
Some may still hold the impression that ink-based signatures are more secure than their digital counterparts. But in truth, it’s totally the other way around. With wet signatures, proving their authenticity in a court of law would take more time. The verification process for manual signatures is also not 100 percent accurate all of the time.
With electronic signatures, running a verification check is much faster, more accurate, and more reliable. Signing digitally does not simply entail uploading a digital version of a wet signature. Using an eSignature tool would necessitate a signer to create an account and link it to an email address.
After this, there would be an additional layer of authentication to establish user intent to sign online. Once established, the signer can then sign by typing his name or uploading his pre-made eSignature. This would record a timestamp of when exactly the signing was done.
Using Fill for eSignature and Contract Management for Law Firms
Fill is the trusted paperless solution to help with the effortless use of eSignatures and a streamlined contract management process. With Fill, you can sign, and request someone to sign, a document in a few minutes or even less.
With our audit trail feature, lawyers won’t have to worry about being challenged over the authenticity of electronically produced signatures. With it, there is electronic evidence of signer intent. There will also be a timestamp of when the signing took place and who signed it. Proof of consent from both parties to do business digitally is also recorded.
For contract management processes, Fill is a convenient integrated platform to manage legal contracts and agreements. Using Fill for contract management will give you the following key integrations:
- Unlimited storage in a secure, cloud-based repository
- Military-grade 256-bit encryption
- Free, customizable templates for legal
- Real-time audit trails and logs
- Instant notifications and alerts
- Integration with other document-sharing apps
- 100% compliance with HIPAA, GLBA, ESIGN Act, UETA, and GDPR
Fill: The Ideal eSignature Partner for Lawyers and Law Firms
Level up your business processes and go digital. Using an integrated software like Fill is the perfect paperless solution for streamlined contract management for the legal industry. With multiple layers of security, it’s virtually impossible for fraudsters to succeed in their data theft and signature impersonation attempts.
With an online solution like Fill, say goodbye to maintaining cabinet storage for a mountain of legal paperwork. With our software, you can securely keep all your high-level contracts in a cloud-based storeroom. Above all, Fill is fully compliant with all regulations governing the admissibility of eSignature use.
Make your legal documents and lawyer signatures protected and safe from all compliance and security risks. Choose Fill and sign up for free today.