In today’s legal industry, we are surrounded by new technology and new ways to communicate with our clients. We market law firms online, communicate with clients via secure online portals, network through social media, create our websites for easy viewing on mobile devices, and even file court documents online.
On the other hand, most attorneys are still entering into agreements on paper with the majority of their contracts. Attorneys utilize a printer, ink pen, scanner and email for most contracts, while they still meet in person to exchange and sign more important agreements.
In most situations, however, is all of this printing, signing, copying, and scanning necessary?
The answer is likely “no” since the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) was passed over a decade ago and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) has been adopted by 47 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
These acts facilitate electronic commerce and the use of electronic records and signatures by ensuring the validity and legal effect of contracts entered into electronically.
With these laws in place, which lay out the signature and identification requirements necessary to validate a person’s signature, electronic signatures are in most cases recognized as being equally valid as handwritten signatures, as long as the agreements do not include terms that are unconscionable or against public policy.
That means that click-wrap agreements and signatures could become as prevalent as traditional handwritten signatures and paper documents for many agreements created by attorneys and businesses.
Not only do changes in law lean in favor of electronically signed contracts, electronic signatures combined with software and internet services offer a few benefits that are not available during traditional contract signing procedures:
- Electronic signatures and click-wrap agreements save paper since there is no need to print the agreement, and web-based platforms allow all parties and their attorneys to view the same agreement as it is saved in your virtual law office or online document storage website.
- Contracts can be accessed anywhere the internet is available, and there is no need to find a printer, scanner or fax machine. That means contracts can be accessed virtually anywhere, in the office, at home, from a laptop on vacation, and other places where printers, scanners and fax machines may not be readily available.
- Because parties do not have to take the added steps of printing, signing, scanning and faxing, electronic signatures and click-wrap agreements speed up the contracting process.
- With the advancement of security in SaaS (Software as a Service) products, electronic signatures and click-wrap agreements can help parties protect privacy. Instead of leaving a private agreement out on a table where wandering eyes may find it, web-based contracts can be stored on password protected sites that are accessible only to parties with the correct passwords and credentials.
Does your virtual law office or traditional law firm create electronic contracts? If so, what types of contracts do you think work best with e-signatures or click-wrap agreements?