Attorneys and their clients often need to sign court documents, contracts, agreements, and more. But the hassle of printing, signing, and scanning documents wastes time and resources for law firms. Digital signature software (also known as e-signature) lets you sign documents on the computer and authenticate the signer more efficiently and securely than physical signature does.
In today’s digital-centric world, the need to sign documents through email and smart devices has been commonplace for some time now — especially as remote legal software becomes widely used during COVID-19. That being said, the legal industry has been slow to adopt these time-saving signatory methods either due to jurisdictional restrictions, law firm policies, or just personal preference.
With the onset of social distancing initiatives brought on by COVID-19, the implementation of digital signatures is helping firms service their clients safely, acquire new business remotely, and continue to operate without the hurdle of managing physical paper and ink. Giving clients the option to electronically sign documents on their laptop, smartphone, or tablet is faster and more convenient for you as well.
4 Benefits of e-Signature for Law Firms
Recently, a number of jurisdictional restrictions have been lifted to clear the path for the adoption of digital signatures. Now is the time to seriously consider how to implement e-signature into your day-to-day process so it will endure post-COVID.
There are four major advantages that digital signature technologies offer law firms compared to a paper-based approach: cost-savings, convenience, security, and more efficient processes.
1. e-Signature Lowers Costs for Your Law Firm
For most law firms, going paperless has a positive impact on the bottom line. In fact, businesses using e-Signature tools are able to cut down their document handling costs by as much as 85%. That’s why many law firms are shifting towards paperless document management and adopting the electronic signing of documents.
Printing isn’t cheap when you consider the costs of printers, paper, ink, and other related expenses. Using digital signatures, law firms can get documents signed without the looming overhead incurred by paper processes. That’s why digital signatures can be a great first step when shifting towards a paperless approach. Consolidating the cost of document signing to one monthly subscription is a more organized and predictable way to manage the process.
2. Digital Signature Gives Staff and Clients a Convenient Experience
Consider how sending paper copies of documents to clients impacts their experience with you.
Making clients sign documents sent via snail mail could frustrate them, waste their time, and cost them money. To return the physical document to you, your client has to take time out of their busy day to drop off the signed papers to the local post office, delivery service (UPS or FedEx), or directly to your physical office location. If they’re dropping off the envelope at a local mailbox, they’d better have some stamps lying around (or you’re probably footing the bill for a prepaid envelope to complete the roundtrip delivery).
The experience isn’t much better if your client is signing and returning a PDF via email: they must print the document, sign it by hand, rescan it, and send it back via email. Sometimes, it’s not even that simple. What if their printer cartridge is out of ink at home? What if they go to Target to buy a printer cartridge, but they’re out of stock? Do they even have a printer with a scanner to begin with? If so, do they know how to use a scanner?
Digital signatures are a hassle-free way to avoid these problems and keep clients happy. Many clients have experienced the convenience and speed of e-signature; if they haven’t, they would come to appreciate it. The simple act of sending an email with an e-signature request shows that your firm is modern and efficient: qualities that will reaffirm their initial choice to place trust in you.
3. The Signing Process Is More Secure With e-Signature
Paper documents are hard to track and verify. Without witnessing someone sign a document, it’s hard to be confident a paper document wasn’t recreated or tampered with.
Digital signatures reassure law firms and their clients that confidential documents are being securely signed by the right individuals. Most digital signature solutions include advanced tracking capabilities to record when and where documents are viewed and who signed them. DocuSign, the leading provider of e-signature, takes the following security measures to ensure that the digital signing process is uncompromised:
- Identity verification for every signer
- Near real-time secure data replication and encrypted archival
- Digital audit trail, with a Certificate of Completion that provides non-repudiation for all documents generated and signed using DocuSign
- 256-bit encryption
- Anti-tampering controls
- Unalterable, systematic capture of signing data
- Digital certificate technology
4. e-Signature Improves Communication With Clients and Partners
The traditional paper approach offers little insight into where documents are in the signing process. Law firms are stuck following up with clients who haven’t signed a document because they’re unsure whether they’ve even received it or not.
Digital signatures reduce the time and resources required to organize and track documents. An established e-signature process allows law firms to track outstanding signature requests with no additional effort. Some solutions like HelloSign even provide automated follow-up features as well.
How Law Firms Can Use e-Signatures
For law firms dipping their toes into the paperless approach to case management, adopting an electronic signature workflow is one of the most straightforward ways to get started with remote legal software. In fact, we’ve already covered several easy ways to digitally sign documents.
Choose Your Digital Signature Tool
There are free e-signature tools like Preview for Mac, but law firms with a high volume of documents and the need for advanced features should consider paid solutions like:
Weigh your digital signature options in terms of cost, security, and convenience before selecting the best remote legal software for signing documents electronically at your law firm.
Gradually Roll Out e-Signature at Your Law Firm
Once you’ve chosen a digital signature solution, start with a limited scope. For example, it may be best to test digital signatures with your staff before implementing them with client-facing documents. This will minimize the risk of any issues occurring.
That said, you’ll see the most benefits by rolling out digital signatures across the entire organization over the long-term. Implementing this technology is a collaborative effort that involves every team member understanding how their specific workflows can transition to paperless.
Go Paperless with Digital Signature and MerusCase
If your law firm is looking to go paperless (or use less paper in general) and needs remote legal software, consider MerusCase. Along with a wide range of time-tracking, billing, docketing, and case collaboration features, the platform offers streamlined document management and creation tools, immersive email integration features, and a super-efficient daily mail upload process (i.e. scanning your physical mail) that helps ease the transition to a paperless practice.