***Please enjoy this blog post which is posted on behalf of the author, Laura Murphy, Product Manager - Closing Folders, iManage.
The past few years have catapulted the legal world into new ways of working.
One significant change is the adoption and acceptance of electronic signatures. It is now possible to digitally sign documents and complete deals from the comfort of your home office rather than the corporate boardroom.
Adding the required IT infrastructure and systems to support these new needs and evolving demands requires consideration of the wider ecosystem of systems, security, applications, devices, and processes.
Here we will walk through some of the key considerations to help you find the right eSignature vendor.
Signature types, regulations & common practice
Starting with the basics, electronic signatures and digital signatures are not the same. An electronic signature can be electronic process that indicates acceptance, including a handwritten, digitally captured signature made on a touch device, or a typed name on an electronic document, or simply clicking “agree” on an electronic agreement. A digital signature is the technology that secures the electronic signature.
The most common electronic signature is the Simple Electronic Signature (SES) also known as Standard Electronic Signature. Signature types that offer increased security, authentication, and a heightened level of identity verification are Advanced Electronic Signature (AES) and Qualified Electronic Signature (QES).
Examine the different industries, regulations, and jurisdictions to which your practice is subject in order to ensure your chosen vendor can provide the signature types you need.
Document types and signing parties
Examine your use case for electronic signatures. If you are just using them for engagement letters and the odd corporate resolution, almost any eSignature provider will suffice. If you are going to be using eSignatures for complex (e.g. multi-jurisdictional, signing in advance, hundreds of signatures, etc.) deal closings, you may need a full-featured eSignature provider possibly paired with a legal transaction management (LTM) tool.
Lawyers often want to collect signatures in advance of a closing, requiring signatures pages to be signed separately from their parent documents and re-incorporated at closing. In other cases, often because of court rulings (e.g. the Mercury ruling) or regulation (e.g. eIDAS), the full document may need to be signed, possibly with an AES for further identity assurance. Ensure your eSignature provider and LTM provider (if any) can handle your required use cases.
Integration and efficiency
The eSignature solution chosen will become a key part of the legal team’s toolkit. Seamless integration with existing workflow and process will help with adoption.
Choose a vendor who offers ease of integration with your LTM, CRM, DMS, and other related solutions.
The integrations (whether out-of-the-box or via an API) should allow you to leverage the full functionality of the eSignature solution.
Accessibility and traceability
Electronically signing documents provides obvious benefits for both the legal teams and the signing parties.
Maximize these benefits by choosing a vendor that requires little or no extra hardware or software to use their solution.
Hybrid working environments put more demands on user support and general governance.
To minimize these impacts, consider how well the solution guides the signatory through the signing process.
Vendor solutions vary greatly when it comes to the sophistication of the audit trail, analytics, and reporting components so this should also be examined to ensure it matches your team’s needs.
Considering these factors will help you gain a good understanding of your digital signature requirements and help select the vendor that can meet these requirements. This will put you on the right path to successfully implementing an eSignature solution.
Good luck with your eSignature journey!