Why E-Signing is Anything but Simple for Law Firms

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    Title*Why E-Signing is Anything but Simple for Law Firms
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    Posted by Phil Ayton

    9 May 2017

     

    The ability to add an electronic signature to documents is fairly straightforward and is something I have been doing for years.  For outbound documents, I add an image of my signature to the Word version before creating a pdf and emailing it.  For inbound documents, I use Adobe Reader to add the same signature file and simply email it back to the sender.

    Not terribly secure, but fine for me and I suspect fine for many firms because the take up of E-Signing software in the legal community has been relatively low.  But is this due to a lack of interest or because there is more to E-Signing than simply signing the document?

    There are two types of E-Signing – outbound and inbound. Outbound signing looks simple – just add a signature image to a Word document, convert that to a read-only format like PDF and send via email.  But what about signing on behalf of someone else?  Unlike many other types of organisations, law firms have secretaries who are authorised to sign on behalf of their fee earners.  Take this ability away and you have the type of process logjam that technology is there to solve.  If you are going to allow signature aliasing, then you are going to need a secure way of doing that.

    If outgoing signing is a little more complex than we first thought, what about preparing documents to be signed by clients?  This requires someone telling the software where to add the signature, the date, the role of the recipient and their job title.  Not terribly complex, but not necessarily something a fee earner wants to setup every time they want to send a document.  So, what law firms need is a signable template that can be used as needed.  In that case, it’s not just the signature you want to add, it’s the addresses, company names, individual names, job titles and such.

    This is a bit more work, so it sounds like something for a legal secretary or trainee to setup and make available to the Practice as a whole.  Law firms send out a lot of documents so the number of templates could grow fast as users start to appreciate their new ability.  The library of templates is going to need to be managed and firms are going to want to share templates across the firm.  This leads to issues around who can access which templates (don’t want M&A lawyers sending out employment contracts), maintaining the templates as things change and controlling the creation of templates so the firm doesn’t create 15 versions of the “new client” template.  Then there is compliance and what to do to make sure the firm doesn’t fall foul of the 4th EU AML directive or the massive GDPR legislation due in 12 months.

    So maybe somewhere along this thought process, many firms give up and go back to the ways that work, but are a little slower.  However, there are many benefits of creating a library of signable templates that go way further than just being able to cut down on the legwork.

    Having a centralised library of templates that can be used to create letters and transactional documents can increase productivity, reduce risk and increase the quality of output for law firms.  The library can become a starting point for all new matters and represent the combined know-how of the firm.  It can be used by less experienced fee earners to produce output of similar quality to their more experienced colleagues.  Templates can be turned into processes, guiding fee earners through choices to create the perfect document for their client.

     

    E-Signing done properly is a branch of knowledge management.  If you think a library of signable letters and transactional templates might benefit your law firm, get in touch for a free trial.

     

    Phil Ayton is the founder and CEO of Sysero. His expertise lies in helping law firms drive greater productivity, ensure compliance and drive client service innovation through knowledge automation. Contact him at phil.ayton@sysero.com.

    SummaryE-signing poses ample challenges, but also opportunities for today's law firms.
    Resource TypeBlog
    CategoryProduct Features
    Publish DateMay 2017
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