How to Ensure Your E-Signatures are Legally Enforceable

A report by Forrester Research estimated that e-signature use grows 53 percent annually, with the number of transactions that utilize e-signatures topping 210 million in 2014 and most likely go beyond 700 million in 2017. As e-signature adoption becomes more widespread in business, they are being more commonly used in legal documents. While the good news is that e-signatures are just as legally enforceable as putting pen to paper, without the right evidence they could dissolve under judicial and opposing counsel scrutiny. Whether an e-signature is defensible is dependent on three elements, independence, identity authentication, and the ability to track both modifications to signed documents and the actions of the signer. Lucky for you, the integration from DocuSign, a partner of Legisway, has all three of these components.

Independence:

Most e-signature vendors provide some level of validation of the signing process, but not all validations can be independently accessed and verified without interference from the vendor.

Independent e-signatures permanently embed the legal evidence into a signed PDF. The embedded evidence links a “fingerprint” of the document at the time of signing with a digital certificate. This proof stays with the signed document wherever it goes and provides evidence, which cannot be tampered with.

If the vendor does not use this type of technology, access to the supporting legal evidence depends on a link to the e-signature vendor instead of the legal evidence in the signed document. If a vendor of this type of e-signature would go out of business, the evidence would be compromised. With independent e-signatures, the evidence can be accessed anytime, anywhere.

Identity Authentication:

To ensure security and validity, the identity of the signer must the authorized before the signing process begins. Since security is one of the top priorities in-house lawyers, DocuSign has a number of authentication procedures that drastically reduce the risk of a data breach.

An example of one such method is when the recipient of a document has to enter an access code before viewing it. Another method is SMS authentication, where the recipient of the document must fill in a one-time code that is sent to them by text message. The phone authentication option asks the recipient to type a phone number to use for authentication and they are presented with a validation code while the system calls their number. After answering the phone, the recipient must enter the code and speak their name. The higher the level of authentication, the more reliable the signer’s identity is, and therefore the more defensible the signature will be in court.

Audit Trails:

All lawyers know that good legal evidence relies on irrefutable documentation. The audit trail records every action that was made during the signing process and by whom, and the tamper-proof technology marks each change, such as the creation, when each e-siganture was applied to the document, when the transaction was completed, and when parties downloaded the document after the transaction was completed. The word “each” is important here, because if each point is not audited, it becomes a weak point in the signing process and could undermine the transaction’s defensibility.

Takeaway:

The DocuSign integration with Legisway helps legal departments participate in completely digital, paperless transactions that are legally enforceable from the moment they’re signed and into the future. In addition to being secure, the integration with DocuSign helps corporate legal departments to save time since they can get their documents signed in a matter of minutes, instead of days. With high enforceability standards, not adopting e-signatures could actually pose a greater risk.