Digital signatures to transform legal industry

A joint working party of more than 20 City law firms, co-chaired by Linklaters, has come together today to endorse the use of digital signatures in a business context. The joint working party of The Law Society Company Law Committee and The City of London Law Society Company Law and Financial Law Committees has produced a guidance note to help parties who wish to execute English law commercial contracts using an electronic signature. The aim of this initiative is to make document signing faster, easier and more convenient by offering signatories the ability to sign documents directly from a smartphone, tablet or desktop. Electronic signatures have the potential to put an end to the time consuming practice of having to "print, sign, and scan" multiple documents and allow a signatory to access a document securely over the internet and insert his or her signature in the appropriate place.

Linklaters began offering clients the opportunity to sign documents electronically via the web-based e-signature platform of DocuSign, the market-leader in this area, in September 2015. This guidance note is the latest initiative by the firm to promote the use of digital signatures more widely.

Mark Nuttall, a partner at Linklaters, says:

“Initial feedback on this new technology has been extremely positive. Clients appreciate both the quicker and more convenient alternative to traditional methods of signing documents and also the security that digital signatures afford, given there is an audit trail that captures who signed what, when and where for every transaction. Completing a signing in the traditional way can be a lengthy process, whereas through this mobile technology, with the click of a mouse or the tap of a tablet or smart phone, it can be reduced to minutes, whilst maintaining the formality and security of a hand-written signing.”

“We saw the need for this for high value transactions, as it is clearly applicable to the work we do and is already becoming common-place for high volume transactions in procurement, employment and compliance. However, in order for the technology to have real value, it needs to be adopted by lawyers across the City. For example, DocuSign alone facilitates a million signatures a day and of course, we all use and trust internet banking. This is a great opportunity for our clients to save money on transaction execution, whilst at the same time, increasing security and streamlining compliance processes. City law firms shouldn’t get left behind by the modern world and should constantly be looking for ways to provide the latest innovative technology for their clients. Working with the Law Society, the City of London Law Society and a number of other international and local law firms, we’re delighted that digital signatures will be rolled out more widely.”

The initiative is part of Linklaters’ wider drive to enhance the firm’s performance through improved efficiency. Our approach is to focus on a comprehensive set of initiatives, investing and pooling our global legal knowledge, focusing on delivery – identifying more cost effective options in the running of matters through mapping and project management and relying on a wide range of lower cost options to complement our offering, including paralegal support from our global Legal Services Centre (LSC) where appropriate.

Download our e-signature guidance note.