10 September, 2018
A study published on 23rd August was deemed to be proof enough by the Law Commission that an electronic signature is sufficient to fulfil requirements for a signature on a document. The study tries to modernise the way in which we execute documents where there is a statutory requirement that a document must be signed, and, the electronic execution of deeds, including the requirements of witnessing and attestation and delivery.
The results of this study should serve to smooth out many aspects of the legal world, making completion of corporate and property transactions in particular much swifter. However, one has to think of the possible negative implications. As the digital world becomes increasingly advanced, the legal world must keep up, and so must account for the many ways in which electronic signatures may be stolen and forged. One website, docusign.com, offers Multi-factor electronic signature authentication options. In a nutshell, it offers ways in which to protect yourself and your e-signature from digital fraud. Options such as knowledge-based authentication or SMS authentication allow for protection against such fraud, much akin to how mobile banking can work.
On top of this, it has been proposed that video links can replace physical witnessing of documents which require witnessed signatures.
If these proposals are implemented, law firms will save thousands a year on postage and travel costs. It will also mean that firms will regularly be able to see deals through from start to finish without ever meeting their clients face-to-face. This may be game-changing for many firms as it opens up the possibility of a National client base.
Firms will have to revolutionise the way in which they market themselves and act hastily to implement these modern completion techniques, as when the proposal is eventually implemented, whether its next year or next decade, clients will have the choice of any law firm in the country.
At Forbes many of our clients have requested that we accept electronic signatures and have stressed that using software such as DocuSign is common practice in other fields. With many legal professionals erring on the side of caution and maintaining traditional wet signatures our view is that things are set to change drastically over the coming year or so.
It has to be stressed that the proposals are provisional and need to be run through a public consultation. The public consultation on the project closes 23rd November, and you can add your own comment at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/law-commission/electronic-execution .
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