In another major milestone for the adoption of eSignatures, a joint working party of more than 20 City law firms, co-chaired by Linklaters, has come together today to endorse the use of digital signatures in a business context.

The joint working party of The Law Society Company Law Committee and The City of London Law Society Company Law and Financial Law Committees has produced a much-anticipated practice note to help parties who wish to execute English law commercial contracts using an electronic signature.

The practice note, which has been approved by leading Brick Court Chambers counsel Mark Hapgood QC, sets out the relevant law around the use of eSignatures in commercial contracts and addresses issues around their use.

Electronic signatures have the potential to put an end to the time consuming practice of having to “print, sign, and scan” multiple documents and allow a signatory to access a document securely over the internet and insert his or her signature in the appropriate place.

Linklaters in September 2015 became the first UK law firm to offer clients the opportunity to sign documents electronically via the web-based e-signature platform of DocuSign, the market-leader in this area.

However, other City law firms are understood to have been waiting for The Law Society’s practice note, which could pave the way for eSignatures to become mainstream.

Mark Nuttall, a partner at Linklaters, said: “Initial feedback on this new technology has been extremely positive. Clients appreciate both the quicker and more convenient alternative to traditional methods of signing documents and also the security that digital signatures afford, given there is an audit trail that captures who signed what, when and where for every transaction.

“We saw the need for this for high value transactions, as it is clearly applicable to the work we do and is already becoming common-place for high volume transactions in procurement, employment and compliance. However, in order for the technology to have real value, it needs to be adopted by lawyers across the City.”

“Commercial contracts drafted by solicitors operate in every aspect of our economy and can govern deals worth millions, or even billions, of pounds,’ said Law Society president Robert Bourns.

‘There is no room for error when so much is at stake, therefore it is vital that solicitors can have confidence in the legal framework surrounding such innovations. This practice note will provide them with greater certainty when using electronic signatures on commercial contracts.”

You can access the Practice Note by clicking on this link: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/advice/practice-notes/execution-of-a-document-using-an-electronic-signature/

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