The processes of regulated legal professions have undergone sweeping changes following the widespread use of the electronic signature. Welcome to “Legal 4.0”! However, the electronic signature provides a unique opportunity for acceleration and smooth running. Oodrive explains all in this article.
What are the benefits of the electronic signature for legal departments?
There are multiple benefits to using an electronic signature within legal departments, whether it’s for a company, a legal firm or any other organisation. First and foremost, in France, digital signatures have the same legal value as handwritten copies – effective since 13 March, 2000.
This practice, which is increasingly regulated and secure, is also managed at European level. eIDAS (Electronic identification and trust services) is a European regulation. It guarantees structured and consistent use of the electronic signature by legal departments and all entities that require it.
eIDAS’ digital signature is divided into four levels of security.
- Level 1 electronic signature, which concerns legal documents that signatories should take into consideration. This refers to health, home and car insurance policies. Security is ensured by a two-step verification process such as a Text message with a code.
- Level 2 electronic signature, which concerns negotiations involving a larger number of parties such as a broker commissioned by the customer. More involved parties requires more control. As such, this means that insurance, pension and savings contracts require confirmation of identity and a photocopy of legal documentation (passport, ID card, etc.).
- Level 3 electronic signature, which applies the same rules as the level 2 electronic signature. In such cases, the only difference is the fact that the customer signs a qualified certificate.
- Level 4 electronic signature, which corresponds to the highest possible level of security. The signing of any contract, and subscription to any policy is controlled as the data is more sensitive. This delivers better identity control of the involved parties. Level 4 electronic signature also involves the creation of a lasting signature certificate, which is the ideal scenario for regulated professions.
In this respect, for legal departments, transparent European regulation is not the only benefit to the electronic signature. Indeed, this ensures proof of document integrity by using a time stamp and signatory identification. Simply put, it makes it impossible to forge a document as well as explaining that it was modified after signature and that the completed fields have been altered.
Lastly, the electronic signature provides another major benefit for legal departments: quite simply, it’s a time-saver. Rather than scheduling a meeting, sending the documents, waiting for signed returns, etc., lawyers do this much faster and in a paperless way. Not only does this ensure feedback, but it also guarantees traceability.
Electronic signature: which legal documentation is concerned?
When, and for which documents, do we use the electronic signature? In reality, we use it for all documents. It’s a tool we can leverage for the following documents:
- Commercial contracts: electronic signatures are ideal for regulated professions to get business done, regardless of your supplier, sales, and subcontracting needs.
- Human resources: HR and recruitment departments can use the electronic signature in exchanges with newcomers and have them sign official job offers or employment contracts in advance. Digital signatures: adding legal value with an impact!
- Corporate life: whether it’s reporting, general meeting minutes or other documents that influence social and civic life, town halls, tax centres and prefectures can deploy the electronic signature.
- External growth transactions: the legal department of a bank or an external player can use an electronic signature for share purchase and share sale agreements, thereby facilitating economic life and investment.
Nowadays, the electronic signature can be used on all types of media, provided that specific data security requirements (customer, company, third party, etc.) are met.
How to successfully implement an electronic signature process in your legal department?
It has never been easier to implement an electronic signature process within your company’s legal department. And this is particularly the case for regulated professions.
The first stage involves establishing what we call a “contract database”. This easily accessible location centralises all digital contract templates your company is used to working with.
By way of example, your quotes, sales agreements and invoices can then be sent to your customer base and partners and signed off with an electronic signature. The signed and returned contracts should then be integrated into your centralised database so your teams can track progress.
As for invoices, your accounting departments will be in a position to easily identify the invoices that are paid and unpaid as well as those that have been dunned and are in the process of being collected. The purpose of such a method is to track contractual progress more easily and ensure that all deadlines and targets are met.