Although electronic signatures have been around for some time, interest in e-signatures has spiked only recently, ever since much of the workforce around the globe adopted remote working due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Putting pen to paper is no longer the easiest and most efficient way of executing documents. Therefore many financial and corporate institutions begin to seek e-signatures as an alternative.

However, there are legal and operational complexities surrounding e-signatures:

1.  There are multiple types of e-signatures, each of which holds varying levels of evidential weight. Depending on the type of documents to be executed, one might want to choose a secure e-signing platform that produces a certificate over email execution for example.

2.  Each jurisdiction has their own laws, regulations and guidelines (or perhaps none at all) on the legal validity of e-signatures. Some jurisdictions may prescribe a certain type e-signature, so multinational organisations would need to consider any conflicting rules.

3.  Signing formalities and registration rules remain. Companies would still need to consider any additional rules, such as witnessing, and industry practice to ensure enforceability.

4.  Whether e-signature can be used depends on organisations' authority and risk policies. Given the wide ranging T&Cs, there is no one hard and fast rule across an industry.

5.  E-signatures require a range of technology components but organisations have varying technical capacity and digital awareness. Sophisticated IT procurement may be required in order to ensure practical concerns on cloud, cybersecurity and  data privacy are mitigated.

Clifford Chance is working with law firms Ashurst, Norton Rose Fulbright as well as electronic signature platforms including DocuSign and Adobe Sign to create standard adoption playbook to help you navigate through these problems. 

If you want to contribute to creating the e-signature playbook, let us know by completing this survey and provide your email address at the end!