The Lawyer’s Guide to Using eSignatures

The Lawyer’s Guide to Using eSignatures

eSignatures have been around since the early 2000s. Yet, many law firms have been slow to adopt the technology due to concerns about implementation, security, and compliance. Is your law firm one of them?  

If so, you’re not alone.

These concerns are understandable—but rest assured that eSignatures are an effective way to save time, improve client satisfaction, and avoid wasting attorneys’ valuable billable hours on unnecessary meetings. Whether you’re working remotely or in the office, eSignatures offer unparalleled convenience in comparison to paper and ink signatures.  

Are eSignatures legally binding? 

As compliance with ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct is a critical issue for law firms, many attorneys are concerned about the legality of eSignatures. Fortunately, eSignatures are both lawful and binding in a vast majority of cases.  

Federal eSignature legislation

The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN Act) made eSignatures legal at the federal level in 2000.  

In accordance with the ESIGN Act, digital signatures are equivalent to pen-and-ink signatures if: 

The signer:

  1. Signs with a clear intent
  2. Accepts a clause to conduct business electronically

The attorney:

  1. Provides the option to sign with ink and paper instead
  2. Sends copies of the document to each person who signs
  3. Maintains a clear audit trail and/or record of the steps taken to obtain the client’s signature 
Local eSignature legislation

State laws like the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) also consider digital signatures and records to be equivalent to pen and ink signatures. There are three states that have not adopted the UETA —New York, Washington, and Illinois—but each has enacted a similar law. 

Worth noting: for some types of legal documents, such as certain family law documents, a traditional “wet” signature is required. Familiarize yourself with your local laws to ensure every eSignature you collect is legally binding.  

Aren’t eSignatures easier to forge?

In many instances, eSignatures are actually more secure than pen and ink. While eSignatures don’t eliminate the possibility of forgery or documents signed under duress, they make proving the authenticity of a signature easier, thanks to built-in digital audit trails.  

Here’s how it works.

Most eSignature software tracks the date and time that: 

  • The attorney sent the document for signature 
  • The client or other recipient opened the document 
  • The document was signed 

Typically, the person signing the document must also provide their name and email address. Sometimes, eSignature software collects IP addresses and IDs of devices, as well. 

These all-important details help prove the document was signed by the intended signee and have been used to establish the validity of eSignatures many times over in federal and state courts. 

Why are eSignatures a must for modern law firms?  

eSignature software is a must-have tool for any modern law firm—not just because it’s ethical or legally binding, but also because it can significantly improve the client experience.  

Furthermore, eSignatures offer a myriad of benefits that help your firm achieve more efficiency and profitability. 

Better client experience

Providing signatures for contracts, agreements, waivers, or any other legal document is part and parcel of getting legal services—but that doesn’t mean your clients enjoy the process. Between combing through page after page to find where they are supposed to sign and then delivering documents back to your office either in-person or through the mail, signing legal documents can be tedious and time-consuming.  

But eSignatures remove that hassle. All your client needs to do is open the file, sign where directed, and resend. What could have taken hours now takes minutes. 

Increased efficiency

Using eSignatures dramatically reduces the time attorneys spend requesting and processing client signatures. In some cases, turnaround times are reduced by as much as 80%.  

eSignatures optimize the signing process. Attorneys can efficiently request client signatures by sending a secure link via email in just a few clicks. To access the eSignature request and sign the document, the client simply needs to open their email, answer some basic authentication questions, and sign.  

Many clients find this process preferable to accessing a client portal because it’s more intuitive. Attorneys appreciate the fact that most eSignature software prevents clients from incorrectly signing documents, saving time and frustration for everyone involved.  

Fewer paper-based problems

Is your firm one of the many kicking off plans to go paperless? If so, you can expect eSignatures to play a major role moving forward.  

A reduction in paper usage means fewer signing and filing errors and less time spent searching through documents. Additionally, electronic access to signed documents makes subsequent retrieval of the documents faster and easier. 

Improved security

Maintaining a high level of security for clients’ data is key to following legal ethics and compliance laws. Reputable eSignature providers use bank-level encryption and knowledge-based authentication to safeguard your clients’ personal information throughout the signature process.  

Compared to traditional signatures, eSignatures and digital file-sharing also offer another degree of security—storing legal documents in the cloud protects them from loss due to fire, flood, theft, or other natural disasters.  

Choosing the right eSignature software  

If you’re considering adding eSignature software to your legal practice’s tech stack, look for these essential features:  

1. Legal-specific security standards

As with any software tool used by law firms, security is a top priority. While a number of industry-agnostic eSignature software options are available, not all of them comply with the legal industry’s guidelines for protecting client confidentiality.  

Look for legal-specific eSignature software that upholds both internationally accepted security standards and any specific guidelines set forth by your local bar association. 

2. User-friendly interface

If clients find your software difficult to navigate, they won’t want to eSign on the dotted line. The same applies to attorneys. If requesting client signatures is too cumbersome with the eSignature software you invest in, they’re likely to revert to traditional methods of signature collection instead.  

3. Practical integrations

If importing legal documents from an eSignature software to your practice management software is a chore, it may not be the right software for your firm. Many options integrate together to help you save time and stay organized. Even better, some practice management software solutions include built-in eSignature features for added convenience.  

Collecting eSignatures with CosmoLex is safe and convenient  

As part of CosmoLex’s commitment to keeping your firm compliant with legal ethics and client confidentiality requirements, our safe and trustworthy eSignature and file-sharing solutions are protected by several layers of security.  

Powered by LexShare and LexSign, eSignature and file-sharing through CosmoLex offers one-click convenience to help you save time and effort when sending important documents and collecting client signatures. 

To learn more about how eSignatures can support your existing practice management tools to create a more profitable and organized firm, schedule your free demo today.  

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