E-Signing can get your documents signed blazingly fast. At Legalesign eSignature 50% of documents are signed within the hour. You can sign from anywhere, it's more secure than paper signatures, you'll never need to overpay for ink again, and the benefits really add up.
This article explains how you electronically sign a document (or e-sign as we call it) and addresses some frequently asked eSignature questions: what eSignature is, how to generate an eSignature, the legal background and some of the questions around security.
A written signature is a physical mark that shows you agree to the terms of a document. At its simplest an eSignature is just a digital mark to the same effect. While this sounds straightforward enough, in the digital world how that mark is made or appears can vary wildly.
For example, you can eSign a document just using email. The first cases in UK law revolved around whether writing your name at the end of an email could constitute signing an agreement. Or equally, you may press your fingerprint to make a mark. That could be both authenticate who you are and show your intent to agree, construing an eSignature.
Rather than identify what an eSignature is by how it is made, a better approach is consider what creates an eSignature in law. Under what circumstances, when you take one or more 'digital actions', does it create a legally binding obligation, hence create an eSignature?
An esignature, in the opinion of the the Law Commission, is an electronic method enacted with the intention to authenticate a document. EU Regulation constructs a wider set of standards. For example in EU Law,
"an advanced electronic signature shall meet the following requirements:
If you just went through a digital process where you signed a document that included those elements, then you just applied an advanced eSignature according to EU law.
The key legislation in the EU is the eIDAS Regulation. This includes the 'advanced esignature' mentioned above and it became enforceable across the EU in July 2016. eIDAS provides strong backing for the use of eSignature across the Eurozone, while in the US the Esign Act was signed into law way back in 2000.
The Law Commission in England and Wales and Law Society have produced a wide array of guidance documents, 'practice notes' and 'consultation documents'. They look at case law on eSignature in the courts of England and Wales. In Scotland, there is quite specific legislation on exactly what kind of eSignature is acceptable for some kinds of contract.
On the whole however legislation is 'technology neutral', meaning the law tends to define rules, principles or procedures that generate an eSignature, rather than a hard and fast single technological solution.
It's important to note that some contracts are governed by specific regulations, and those may define strictures that relate to eSignature, for example, such as requiring an e-signature to be scrawled in a specific place on a given page.
eSignature security goes beyond the 'enaction' of the eSignature itself. You need to ask where the document came from, how it has been delivered, how it was made, the details in any audit log, how it is stored, and whether it could have been altered.
The best way to ensure a PDF document has not been altered is PDF Certification with Long-Term Validation (LTV), which we use here at Legalesign. This means the document is sealed after it is signed and any attempt to change it will break that seal. In addition, LTV means you don't need to go back to anyone later to verify it. Legalesign's signed contracts self-prove their authenticity.
For any eSignature platform where you may esign a document, data security should be a central concern. For example, at Legalesign we are externally audited each year through both ISO27001, the ISO for data protection, and through the Cyber Essentials scheme for cybersecurity.
Personal data now must be secure, at the risk of big fines from regulators. One of the big challenges arising from those data security (GDPR) regulations is not only to build strong systems to protect personal data but also to be able to provide that data quickly when required. Legalesign provides a highly developed set of GDPR features, so customers can meet their legal obligations (and avoid any fines!).
If you are asking whether eSignature is secure, test how secure your data is in the software; check whether that system has been audited for example. When it comes to data security, free or cheap apps aren't the bargain they used to be.
Here's a short video to show how to e-sign a document:
Here's a short video to show how to send a document to be e-signed:
Thank-you for reading this article on how to esign a document, we hope it has helped answer any questions you had about esigning.
If you have any other queries or thoughts about eSignature, please get in touch we will be happy to help. Alternatively, if you are ready to make the leap and go digital, sign up for our Free Trial and start getting your documents esigned now.