As long as documents need original signatures, offices can’t fully convert to electronic document signing as a process. This is especially true with legal documents, which still remain an important part of every type of business transaction, from a new client relationship to the mortgage documents used to buy a house.
For law firms representing multiple clients, handwritten signatures can be a daily part of doing business. With customers often signing paperwork remotely, however, attorneys find ourselves constantly asking attorneys to print documents, sign them, scan them, and email them back. This saves a trip to the firm or the delay that comes from sending items through the mail.
There is another option, however. At The May Firm, our injury lawyers have learned the value of electronic document signing. It’s faster and more efficient than having all that paperwork traveling back and forth and clients prefer it. Here are a few options your law firm may consider.
If you want to get started quickly, Adobe’s built-in signature capabilities might be the easiest transition. You can already sign a document in Adobe, provided your version is Adobe Acrobat XI or greater. You can sign a piece of paper and scan it in, use your MacBook camera to capture your signature, or draw a signature with your finger or mouse. This option will only allow you to sign and complete text fields, however, and getting clients to use it may be difficult, since some of your clients won’t know they have the feature. It requires your clients to sign, save, and send it back to you without being automatically walked through the process.
For more intensive capabilities, you’ll need to upgrade to paid software. Adobe EchoSign allows the law firm to send a document to a client by email and set up automated workflows to control the process. With each step, the client is moved to the next part of the signing process and once complete, the process can be set up to trigger a variety of actions, including invoicing the client or transferring the client to a specific department. If multiple signers are involved, the documents can automatically transfer to the next person in the process, with the same set of signing instructions provided. Plans start at $9.99 per month after a free trial.
DocuSign strives to provide the strongest legal enforceability of any method of document signing, including paper. The audit trails that accompany signing through its service could prove valuable when a case goes to trial. For that reason, some legal firms recommend it to their clients, as well. DocuSign sends an email to the signee requesting a signature, then uses red arrows to show where signatures and initials are needed. Integrations with CRMs and other cloud solutions make it easier to use for employees and clients. Plans start at $10 per month.
RightSignature’s documents can be signed online, which means customers can connect and sign using a mobile device. Professionals can upload most of the popular document types, including Microsoft Word documents and PDFs, and add text fields, initial boxes, drop-down menus, and check boxes. Since it’s cloud-based, firms can start requesting signatures immediately with no setup required. Contracts are securely stored on RightSignature’s server and can be accessed through a search tool. Plans start at $11 per month.
CudaSign for Legal
Once known as SignNow, CudaSign is an inexpensive alternative to the other signing apps. Its legal features include being able to track in real time when documents are opened, viewed, and signed. Alerts let legal professionals know when a document has been opened or signed, as well as when a certain amount of time has passed with no action. CudaSign also works with software like SalesForce, Netsuite, Apptus, and Google. Plans start at $1 per user per month, but for a plan that includes integrations, firms will be required to pay $9 per month.
If you’re still signing paper documents at your law firm, you may be missing a great opportunity to streamline things. You’ll not only save on paper costs, but you’ll increase productivity by saving the time you would have spent printing documents to sign them. In addition to the time you’ll save, you’ll also have an audit trail that will help you if you ever have to discuss the signatures in court.