Q:

Will e-signatures be the big win from the Covid19 pandemic? If so, who is working on it? Please list.

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Rachel Amos
The Senate
24 Apr 2020

A: SenseCheck

  • 3 Yes
  • 0 Unclear
  • 2 No
SenseCheck complexity

Newest Answer Oldest Answer

  • 24 Apr 2020
  • Yes

    Simple

    COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for the legal industry to leverage advances in technology. Digital signatures are a perfect example. This technology allows that a transaction is performed at a faster and as securely as a wet signature, thus increasing access to others. In Puerto Rico, we have had been forced to adopt technologies because of the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the January 2020 tremors, and now this pandemic. Our judiciary and the legislature are taking steps to ensure that digital signatures are incorporated into all aspects of our legal system.

    As others have mentioned before, the use of this existing technology is not a "Big win". But I do suggest that this technology has many notary publics in Puerto Rico nervous. Right now, notary publics are required for many commercial transactions (mortgage agreements, for example), and governmental processes (affidavits). A recent bill was introduced to allow for notaries to examine some documents for the initial preparation of the required instrument through video conferencing. Basically, they can meet the persons and check their personal identification documents. Why just the checking ID? It makes no sense.

    I agree that digital signatures are not the next big thing, but its usage will allow some to observe and analyze it to then question many of the current rules that restrict our profession, some of them dating back centuries.

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    Diego Alcala
    Defensoria Legal

  • Comment

  • 24 Apr 2020
  • Yes

    Simple

    I tend to agree with Ron - I was talking to a Big Law firm the other day who are carrying out a global survey for digital signatures (yes! truly!) so it's what clients are actually paying for (but don't want to..)

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    Rachel Amos
    The Senate

  • Comment

  • 24 Apr 2020
  • No

    Simple

    I'm reluctant to characterize anything coming out of the pandemic as a "win." But if we're talking about changes for the better in the legal profession, then e-signatures would be a terribly disappointing entry at the top of the list. As Bryan says, we should have been on this more than 10 years ago. It's a nice first step -- well, more accurately, it's that first draw back of your feet as you prepare to stand up from your chair -- but that's all it is. I can't say I know who is leading the way in this area at the moment.

    If the pandemic miraculously ended tomorrow, then the big takeaway for the legal community would probably be remote work. Here's something else we all should have been doing more of this last decade, but when you stop and think that court proceedings, law school classes, and client meetings are now occurring online all over the place, and that most law firm lawyers are working from home and liking it just fine -- and that this was all accomplished in about six weeks -- that's amazing. And I don't know anyone who thinks we're going to stop doing this after the pandemic. A mix of at-the-firm, at-home, and online will be standard operating procedure.

  • Comment

  • 24 Apr 2020
  • Yes

    Simple

    I understand Bryan's point that wider spread adoption of e-signatures is not really a big win. But change in the legal market is all relative.

    Given the number of video chats I've been on since lockdown, I am talking to even more friends in Big Law now than usually. E-sign has come up multiple times and is a big deal for them. (Including understanding where it is NOT valid, eg, Nigeria [as of a few weeks ago at least])

    So many commentators before crisis and now talk about legal market disruption. I don't see that happening. I think two changes from crisis that will stick are e-signing and work from home.

    And BTW, esign has been an option since around 2001 when Federal E-SIGN passed. I worked for a dot.com that provided that service, including enforceable online agreements. Conceptually, it's approach was very similar to blockchain.

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    Ron Friedmann
    Strategic Legal Technology Blog

  • Comment

  • 24 Apr 2020
  • No

    Simple

    I would hope that e-signatures are not the "big win" here. Most e-signature platforms have been widely available for years. And the adoption and use of them by the legal community should dramatically increase. But, if it takes a global pandemic to adopt the use of decade-old technology, then good lord Lorrie! E-signature platforms are a great step in the right direction, but I would hope that they are more of a "small win" than a "big win".

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    Bryan Eggleston
    The Eggleston Law Firm, PC

  • Comment