Electronic Lawyer Signatures: Tips & Uses
By Mary Elizabeth Hammond
Practicing law requires legally binding signatures—whether it be for a standard contract, a real estate closing contract, or a routine will. However, tracking down documentation and following up with clients for signatures costs lawyers hours of non-billable time.
Fortunately, in this digital age attorneys can rely on legal electronic signature software to collaborate with clients and colleagues and gather signatures. This digital process saves firms time and money.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- The different types of lawyer signatures
- What makes an electronic signature legally binding
- The benefits of law firms utilizing electronic signatures
- How to choose the right legal electronic signature software for your firm
What Are the Different Types of Lawyer Signatures?
Physical pen-to-paper is no longer the only option for a signature. In the following section, we’ll define the most commonly used signatures: a wet signature and an electronic signature.
The term “wet signature” is often used to describe a handwritten signature signed with a pen and ink. In the past, wet signatures were the only legally binding signatures. Today, an electronic signature carries the same weight and may be just as legally binding (we’ll discuss this in more detail below).
An electronic signature or e-signature is a digital symbol attached to an electronic document and thus signed with intent by the signer. Utilizing e-signatures helps lawyers reduce time spent on non-billable tasks and can decrease the risk of human error.
Using secure and trusted software, many firms have replaced the practice of collecting traditional wet signatures with e-signatures. According to the 2021 Industry Report, 46% of surveyed legal professionals reported that their firms invested in remote working software—and 22% adopted e-signature software.
Are Electronic Lawyer Signatures Legally Binding?
Since the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) passed in 2000, electronic signatures have been considered legally binding in all US states and territories.
According to the ESIGN Act, electronic signatures require:
- Record retention—A financial institution maintains electronic records accurately reflecting the information contained in the applicable documentation.
- Notice of availability of paper records—Institutions must provide a clear statement informing the consumer of any right or option to provide the record on paper or in a non-electronic form.
However, there are still some instances where e-signatures are not acceptable and a wet signature is required, such as divorce papers or court orders.
Why Should You Use an Electronic Lawyer Signature?
Electronic lawyer signatures deliver several key benefits to legal professionals, including the following.
Law firms deal with large amounts of sensitive information, making them a common target for cybercriminals. According to the American Bar Association Formal Opinion 477, lawyers have an ethical obligation to protect confidential client information.
In many ways, virtual signatures are more secure than traditional wet signatures. The top electronic lawyer signatures solutions are HIPAA compliant, international law compliant, and provide secure document storage and encryption.
Additionally, e-signatures are less susceptible to forgery. With an electronic record of the entire data-capturing process, you can easily establish signature authenticity.
The convenience of electronic lawyer signatures is worth the investment. Instead of spending resources coordinating and attending a meet-up to gather handwritten signatures, lawyers can get an electronic signature with just a few clicks. This is a great benefit to you as a lawyer but also to the client. They only need to open their email and click on the dotted line. There’s no risk of misplacing physical documents or filing errors.
Streamlining the process of gathering client and attorney signatures and documentation means you have more time to focus on billable hours. You can request client or attorney electronic signatures via email and have documents signed in seconds. It saves everyone’s time and moves cases along.
How to Choose the Right Electronic Signature Software for Your Law Firm
There are a variety of legal electronic signature software tools to choose from. The best choice will be tailored for attorneys with the legal features your firm needs. To make the best purchasing decision, look for the features listed below.
1. Data Protection
As with any software your firm uses, data protection is essential. When researching electronic lawyer signature solutions, look for tools that are compliant with national and industry security standards such as HIPAA. We recommend using an attorney electronic signature software that has:
- An audit trail
- The ability to securely send and receive documents
Certain solutions, such as MyCase, allow you to securely merge data from contact and case fields into electronic signatures requests and templates. This ensures your document management and all corresponding data are secure.
2. Status Tracking
Many electronic signature solutions provide status updates and tracking. This means you can be notified when it has been viewed, signed, declined, or voided. Status tracking not only gives you peace of mind but also allows you to view the electronic history of your document should there be any hiccups.
3. Editing Capabilities
Look for a solution with a built-in editor. This feature allows you to add fields and text to documents as needed—without leaving the application. If your client or colleagues request an edit, you can easily oblige without trouble.
For instance, MyCase legal electronic signature software allows you to add client or attorney signatures, initials, dates, merge fields, and open text fields with editable labels.
4. Payment Collection
Some agreements will also require payment. Having a solution that collects electronic signatures and accepts digital payments is much more convenient for you and your client. There’s no need to bounce back and forth between documents and systems. Invoices, e-signatures, and documents can all be sent and recorded from the same platform.
Get the Best Electronic Lawyer Signature Software
Streamline your law firm operations with electronic signature software. MyCase offers a robust e-signature solution that makes the process of preparing and signing retainer and case documents simple.
In addition to this feature, MyCase offers:
- Document management
- Customizable client intake forms
- Billing and payments
- Legal accounting features
- And more
See how MyCase can help you streamline your signature collections, document management, and more. Get your free 10-day trial now.
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