How to streamline legal document management with eSignatures

OneSpan Team,

Traditional paper-based systems, once our loyal companions, have become treacherous. Inadequate document management can be a major issue. It's not just about potential lawsuits; it's about inefficiency, costs, and the client experience which is becoming a differentiator in a competitive legal industry.

A secure, cloud-based document management system with integrated electronic signature technology is an important tool to overcome these challenges. Many law firms and enterprise legal teams have already seen returns in the form of seamless collaboration, streamlined legal workflows, and robust security features that mitigate risks and ease concerns about online threats. Not to mention capturing client signatures faster and being able to rely on digital audit trails for transparency and proof of compliance.

Imagine immediate access to digital contracts, accelerated agreement processes, and enhanced control over critical records. The right legal tech tools empower legal professionals to focus on strategic priorities rather than worry about the accuracy and security of their documentation.

Transforming legal document management through automation

Legal professionals often find themselves trapped in a paper labyrinth. The traditional approach to document management, heavily reliant on physical files and manual processes, creates a multitude of hurdles that stifle efficiency, pose risks, and hinder collaboration. Challenges include:

1. Inefficiency:

  • Time-consuming tasks: Manually filing, retrieving, and searching for documents can consume valuable time for lawyers and staff.  
  • Version control chaos: Tracking different versions of documents across various storage locations is a nightmare, leading to confusion and potential errors.
  • Limited accessibility: Physical documents are inaccessible to remote team members or clients, hindering collaboration and responsiveness.

2. Risk of error:

  • Human error: Manual data entry and document handling increase the likelihood of typos, misfiling, and lost documents, impacting case outcomes and client trust.
  • Missed deadlines: The paper trail can easily obscure critical deadlines, leading to penalties and missed opportunities.
  • Compliance failures: Keeping track of evolving regulations and ensuring document compliance becomes a tedious and error-prone manual process.

3. Security concerns:

  • Physical threats: Theft, fire, or natural disasters can easily damage or destroy physical documents, jeopardizing sensitive information and client confidentiality.
  • Unauthorized access: Physical documents are susceptible to unauthorized access, leading to data breaches and privacy violations.
  • Limited audit trails: Tracing document activity and accountability becomes complex with paper-based systems, hindering discovery and risk management.

4. Costs:

  • Shipping: The costs of sending hardcopy documents for signature, either by courier or registered postal mail, could be significantly reduced.
  • Storage: The costs of leasing storage space in long-term storage facilities could also be reduced through secure digital storage.

5. Business development risks:

  • Impact on client acquisition and retention: For law firms, reputation and referrals are important factors in winning new clients. Not meeting expectations for responsiveness, lead times, and efficiency can impact an attorney’s ability to build a growing and loyal client base.

These challenges create a frustrating work environment for legal professionals. While paper-based systems may have served their purpose in the past, their limitations become increasingly detrimental.

Digital tools offer a powerful solution for legal document management:

  • Easy access to documents: Retrieve any file instantly from anywhere with direct document access.
  • Collaborative legal workflows: Real-time editing, clear document version control, and even assisted remote collaboration keep everyone informed and working together effectively. As an example, legal professionals can invite clients into a secure virtual room to discuss document points, make amendments, and eSign in real time. This gives attorneys the ability to guide clients through complex documents and answer questions in real time, which builds trust and loyalty, as well as the client’s perception of responsiveness and added value.
  • Enhanced security: Incorporating advanced electronic signature functionality and tamper-evident records significantly minimizes the risk of fraud and manipulation, and protects the integrity of digital documents beyond what is possible with paper. eSignature software protects sensitive information with strong encryption and access controls for client confidentiality and compliance. When documents are shared for signature, it is via a secure link that requires clients and legal professionals to authenticate before gaining access to the documents. Authentication options include single- and multi-factor authentication and can be adjusted based on risk level.
  • Automated workflows: Eliminate repetitive tasks like contract routing and approvals, freeing up time for strategic work. Many highly regulated industries have already proven the ability to save time through automation.

eSignature and online notarization as a pillar of your digital transformation  

Law firms and their clients are embracing digital interactions more than ever before. Like many other industries, digital transformation is accelerating in the legal industry and will have a profound impact on client interactions in the coming years.

As in many other aspects of their lives, clients want and expect remote, digital legal interactions and that includes electronically signing all manner of agreements, contracts, and documents. Legal professionals, their business partners, and clients have been looking for this convenience for a long time and they are finally starting to get it.

Of course, electronic signature is only one aspect of the digital transformation in the legal industry. Notarization is another area that is transforming. While it is relatively new, remote online notarization became popular because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Adhering to social-distancing orders, notary services were not provided in person, which prompted many US states to craft temporary laws that outlined the online notary process.

Digitizing notary services benefits everyone involved through heightened convenience, security, and accessibility. These services eliminate geographical limitations and in many cases, the need for in-person meetings – allowing documents to be notarized instantly and securely online. Analysts have reported that now is the right time for remote online notarization as a wide variety of use cases emerge for electronic notarial acts.

Digital notarization services offer significant advantages over traditional methods, including:

  • Convenience: Notarize documents instantly, without geographical limitations, eliminating the need for physical meetings and lengthy paperwork.
  • Security: Secure your documents with advanced electronic signatures, tamper-proof records to minimize the risk of fraud and manipulation, and other built-in security controls like strong identity proofing options to safeguard notarized agreements throughout the transaction lifecycle.
  • Operational efficiencies: Reduce the time and costs of managing paper with an end-to-end digital notarization process.

Securing digital records

Document storage is a key concern for the legal industry. As with most regulated businesses, while policy requires that documents be archived in a central document management tool, documents are often saved to a team member’s Microsoft OneDrive or SharePoint folders, stored in Outlook, saved in a messaging app like Teams or Slack, or kept locally on laptops.

As technology advances, new solutions are changing how legal records are stored for the long term. For example, the OneSpan Sign electronic signature solution provides blockchain-based storage where eSigned records flow automatically into immutable storage without the need for manual intervention.

Blockchain's inherent features provide:

  • Immutability: Creates an unalterable record of signed documents, assuring their authenticity and preventing unauthorized modifications – especially valuable in a world where online fraud and hacking is exploding.
  • Transparency: Offers verifiable proof of authenticity for all parties involved, fostering trust and confidence in the transaction.

The revolutionary aspect of blockchain lies in its ability to secure documents beyond conventional methods, setting a new standard for integrity in legal document management.

Streamlining legal workflows

Transparency is not just a virtue; it's a necessity. From building trust to ensuring regulatory compliance, clear visibility into document activity and signatures forms the bedrock of successful legal management. However, traditional paper-based systems often create information silos, hindering access and fostering confusion.

An eSignature solution can be integrated with legal document management software (DMS), case management software, and contract lifecycle management (CLM) solutions, to offer real-time tracking of document status, signatures, and modifications. Stakeholders can stay informed with key features like a dashboard view for the status of documents sent for eSignature, reminder notifications, and audit trails.

Detailed audit trails provide a clear, verifiable record of every interaction for accountability and compliance. Securely logging every document interaction and making them searchable provides a robust foundation for addressing regulatory requirements and mitigating compliance risks. These advancements go beyond mere efficiency; they transform legal workflows, fostering trust, ensuring accountability, and empowering legal departments to navigate complex matters confidently.

Enhancing M&A efficiency

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) often drown in a sea of paperwork. Coordinating vast document volumes and ensuring accuracy across teams poses major hurdles. Digital solutions step in as lifesavers, streamlining this critical process.

Features such as centralized repositories, real-time document tracking, and the bank-grade security of eSignature platforms like OneSpan Sign eliminate logistical nightmares. Imagine swift due-diligence, accelerated deal closure, and enhanced security – all powered by digital tools that bring speed, accuracy, and control to high-stakes M&A transactions.

The future of legal document management is digital

The paper trail is fading. While it may not be realistic to expect that law firms become paperless, digital tools have unlocked transformative potential, empowering in-house teams and external counsel to collaborate seamlessly, access information instantly, and confidently navigate regulatory complexities.

From real-time tracking and secure audit trails to streamlined M&A processes and advanced eSignatures, the digital revolution is reshaping our legal landscape. The future holds even greater promise, with cutting-edge technologies like blockchain poised to redefine further how legal professionals manage documents. In legal matters, embracing change is no longer an option – it's imperative for thriving in the modern legal environment.

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