E-signatures are here to stay. We spoke to Ken Moyle, Chief Legal Officer at DocuSign on the future, legality and security of digital signatures.

Increasingly businesses are recognising the benefits of using electronic consent rather than its outdated paper counterpart. By replacing traditional ink signatures a law firm can speed up return times, reduce errors and mistakes, and decrease its environmental footprint.

E-signatures are here to stay. We spoke to Ken Moyle, Chief Legal Officer at DocuSign on the future, legality and security of digital signatures.

The South African leg of the DocuSign Signature City Tour 2014 took place in Johannesburg on 13 November, 2014 when local businesses had the opportunity to join the digital transformation and learn how companies worldwide are seeing improved efficiency and huge cost savings by keeping business digital with DocuSign.

Local DocuSign Partner, Doccly was there to find out how DocuSign could benefit law firms, and spoke to Ken Moyle, Chief Legal Officer at DocuSign.

Ken frequently advises government agencies, lawmakers and industry executives on electronic signatures and records. Here he outlines the use of e–signatures within businesses and addresses common concerns about legality, legibility and legitimacy.

Doccly: Are e–signatures here to stay?

Ken Moyle: Yes! Increasingly businesses are recognising the benefits of using electronic consent rather than its outdated paper counterpart. Yet since 2003 one of the biggest challenges for DocuSign has been convincing the world that electronic signatures are safe for business, especially in areas where trust is key. Electronic signatures are safe, secure, and legally binding, the argument for not adopting them has no ground left to stand on.

Digital is the new analogue. The signing ceremony has moved from having to sign in person to giving consent on the move, from anywhere. Juniper Research predicts there will be more than 1 billion BYOD devices used in the workplace by 2018. The use of mobile devices is on the rise in business and undoubtedly this will continue. Replacing traditional wet ink signatures with electronic signatures can speed up return times, reduce errors and mistakes, and decrease negative environmental impact—especially when made so convenient through mobile device signing.

“Law firms are missing the opportunities e–signatures currently offer to digitise their own businesses. Firms should reduce the time they spend chasing signatures by adopting digital signatures for correspondence, HR, engagement letters, and client authorities. They can start today by using DocuSign's Digital Transaction Management global platform to book business sooner.”

Charl Dreyer, CEO Doccly

In commerce and under the law, an electronic signature is used by a signer to show they agree with the intentions laid out in a contract. DocuSign enables you to sign with your finger, upload a scanned image of your signature, or type in your name and select from a variety of signature styles to DocuSign a document. The DocuSign mobile app allows the person to sign any time, anywhere, on any mobile device. Whichever option is chosen, the signature is a completely valid electronic signature. This signature is associated with a unique identifier so that every document signed will be recorded as signed by that single person only. e–signatures replace flipping through stacks of paperwork, as well as printing, faxing, scanning and using couriers.

Doccly: Would an electronic signature stand up in court?

Ken Moyle: Electronic signatures are not only admissible as evidence, but the fact that all of the circumstances around the signing ceremony can be verified independently means that regulated forms of e–signatures have higher authentication criteria than regular handwritten signatures. This legal strength is due to the robust authentication data captured by online signature software, which provides digital evidence of who signed a document, as well as when, where, and how they did it.

Doccly: Why do businesses need to adopt a special solution to allow for them to reap the benefits of e–signatures? Why isn't a scan of a signature input into a document enough?

Ken Moyle: A scanned signature can count as a valid signature if the intent of the signatory to sign the document can be proved, but it doesn't have the added benefits of encryption. If used in court, the argument for tampering is an easy one for a lawyer to put forward, potentially making a scanned signature invalid.

When you DocuSign a document you have the security that it is legally binding, even if used in court, and the encryption used means it won't get into the wrong hands.

In addition to common law recognition of electronic signatures, legislation such as the UK Electronic Communication Act of 2000, and the Electronic Communications and Transaction Act in South Africa, makes it clear that legally required ‘writings’ can be signed electronically and retain their legal effect.

“It's absolutely fair to say that DocuSign is helping to accelerate our business. As we use DocuSign more and more, it becomes a tool that we would struggle to do without.”

Simon Dowler, Misys General Counsel

Doccly: How secure is the DocuSign platform?

Ken Moyle: Another fear factor about using e–signatures is security, but again this is one that is completely irrational. People find a cabinet full of paper reassuring, but why? Is it safer there than in the cloud? E–signatures allow the secure, digital storage of contracts and speed up the entire contracting process to create a better experience for all involved.

Every e–signature provider has some level of security included in their solution but there are different lengths providers will go to in order to ensure that data and documents are safe. DocuSign boasts three geo–dispersed, SSAE 16 audited data centres with 24/7 security, near real–time secure data replication and encrypted archives. DocuSign is currently the only Digital Transaction Management company that has been certified to ISO 27001:2005 international security standards. This level of security is much higher than other similar companies provide and can be compared to that provided by the emergency services. This enables levels of security that a filing cabinet just can not provide.

E–signature solutions are the safest option. Advanced encryption methods and a range of authentication options ensure that document integrity is not compromised. DocuSign is tamper–proof and signed documents are tamper–evident, so that you can trust that documents remain safe and secure long after signing through DocuSign. Can you say the same for a document in a filing cabinet?

Doccly: You say that DocuSign provides security on clients' terms to meet their particular compliance needs. What does this mean?

Ken Moyle: Digital Transaction Management has emerged as a new category of cloud services to digitally manage document–based transactions. DTM removes friction inherent in transactions that involve people, documents, and data to create faster, easier, more convenient and secure processes. DocuSign has recently announced the general availability of the new DocuSign Security Appliance. The unique solution provides DocuSign DTM platform customers with the option of encryption key management and auditing for their DocuSign documents behind their own firewall. This allows customers to realise the benefits of cloud–based DTM while meeting their specialised security requirements.

Doccly: Why should law firms join this digital revolution?

Ken Moyle: There are a range of outdated arguments against e–signatures, but do any of them stand up? No. There are a lot of firms that are afraid of trying new things, and taking new approaches. e–signatures present a real advantage to firms, and companies such as Sony, Siemens, Bayer, LinkedIn, HP and many others have experienced the benefits moving towards being a 100% digital business can bring.

Aside from the many benefits of adopting e–signatures within their practices, clients who are increasingly mobile will undoubtedly exert pressure on law firms to digitise the signing ceremony.

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