The legal sector is one industry that has long relied on traditional, paper-based processes. However, the digitisation of legal workflows is now enabling firms to work smarter and faster, allowing them to see more of the inherent benefits of automation and technology in business.
One of the key technologies powering this digital transformation is electronic signatures or eSignatures.
As we have widely documented, eSignatures allow documents to be signed securely online, eliminating the need for printing, scanning, faxing and sending paper copies back and forth. This introduces efficiency at every stage of legal matters, from initial client onboarding to finalising settlements.
It doesn’t matter what the legal firm specialises in, whether it’s conveyancing or personal injury claims, it can benefit tremendously by adopting digital processes and automation at every touchpoint.
Streamlining the client intake process
The first touchpoint with any new client is typically administrative and collaborative – collecting contact details, the process of reviewing and signing terms of service, agreeing on timescales and so on. This process can be slow and frustrating for both the client and the firm when done manually with paper forms or relying on verbal communication and authorised signatories.
With eSignatures, new client documents can be prepared with pre-populated signature fields and sent instantly online to the intended recipient(s). The client simply reviews, signs and submits the paperwork digitally from their device, alleviating any delays and costs associated with postage, travel during business hours, and so on.
The automation and digitisation of client signatures allows the relationship to get started faster, with less back and forth and no need to schedule in-person meetings just for signatures. It also allows remote client onboarding for firms with an international presence. Consequently, more legal firms can dedicate their resources to strategic work without having to wait for physically signed documents to be returned in person.
Speeding up document reviews
The review process on legal matters often involves multiple stakeholders within and outside the firm. Drafting, amending and signing off on various documents inevitably causes delays when people must be available to handle physical papers.
With eSignatures, documentation workflows can become parallel instead of sequential, with validations provided in real-time. Documents can be signed simultaneously by different parties, with each viewing the latest version and signing electronically.
Case and project bottlenecks are largely eliminated as a legal team no longer has to wait for documents to make their way from desk to desk. The review process speeds up tremendously, keeping matters moving forward in a more timely fashion, thus leading to improvements in client satisfaction and timescales and fewer missed deadlines.
Automating key legal transactions
Certain legal processes like property purchases involve signing a high volume of documents, not to mention collecting various forms of correspondence at various sections of the paper trail. Manually managing and executing all these papers is hugely time-consuming for lawyers, who often have to liaise with one or multiple other firms to ensure that documentation has been sufficiently compiled, and any copies urgently issued.
With eSignatures integrated into case management platforms, key transactions and exchanges can be automated by pre-populating documents with client data and routing them for signature with no manual handling needed. This takes the administrative burden off conveyancing lawyers and paralegals so they can focus on higher-value tasks and ensure more transparency in communication with the client.
Standard documents like contracts can also be set up as templates that pull data from the case file, reducing repetitive drafting. These time efficiencies multiply across large caseloads, boosting overall firm productivity.
Facilitating remote collaboration
The shift towards hybrid and remote work, accelerated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, makes efficient digital processes more important than ever. Lawyers and clients are often not in the same location – or even the same country. Yet cases must still progress smoothly. Luckily, the pandemic paved the way for more digital solutions that created opportunities for facilitated real-time collaboration without coming at a cost to productivity.
eSignatures enable seamless collaboration between dispersed teams and signatories, from team members working remotely to clients located overseas and working in different time zones. Documentation can be securely accessed and signed from anywhere, keeping matters moving forward without logistical or geographical delays.
Virtual collaboration is also enhanced by eSignature audit trails, which provide clear visibility into who has actioned documents at each stage with timestamps. This supports transparency and accountability when working remotely, which is only set to continue in the coming years, as working patterns continue to adapt post-pandemic.
Accelerating settlements and claims resolution
The final step in many legal matters is getting settlement agreements or court orders signed off and executed. This is traditionally bogged down by the logistics of getting signatures from all required parties.
With eSignatures, multi-party agreements and orders can be prepared with signature fields for each signee. Documents can then be signed immediately online by all parties to swiftly finalise settlements or judgements.
For personal injury claims, this dramatically accelerates resolution, getting compensation into the hands of plaintiffs faster.
Improving security and compliance
While efficiency is a major benefit, eSignatures also boost regulatory and legislative compliance in terms of data protection. Electronically signed documents include encrypted authentication and restricted access to unauthorised third parties to prevent fraud or misuse.
eSignature workflows include detailed audit trails tracking actions by each signee, in the same way that tracked mail does. This provides clear proof of compliance for evidentiary purposes.
These security features allow legal eSignatures to satisfy “wet ink” signature requirements in most jurisdictions globally. Where adoption is still pending, leading law firms are helping drive change by demonstrating their reliability.
In summary, it’s clear to see how eSignatures benefit legal claims and cases across the board:
eSignatures allow faster client onboarding with less administration
Document reviews speed up as signatures happen in parallel rather than in a step-by-step fashion
Key transactions can be automated for efficiency thanks to encrypted documentation
Remote collaboration is better enabled, with teams being better equipped for digital interactions and communication
Settlements and claims can be finalised faster with multi-party signing
Security and compliance are enhanced compared to paper signatures
The legal sector’s digital shift is picking up pace as disruptive technologies demonstrate their effectiveness in practice.
For forward-thinking firms, now is the time to capitalise on innovations like eSignatures to work smarter, maximise productivity and deliver better outcomes for clients. Firms clinging to legacy paper processes risk being left behind.
Dakota Murphey is a Brighton-based, established freelance writer with experience in business growth and a strong interest in all things digital. Aside from her love of writing, she loves good times with family and friends and admits to being a bit of a film buff.