Ten Things: Electronic Signatures (What In-House Counsel Need to Know)

[Since the last “Ten Things” post there are now over 4,000 followers of this blog.  Thank you!!]

Welcome to day 987 of “Shelter-in-Place.”  Brought to you by our good friends at COVID-19 – courtesy of unprepared governments everywhere!  Okay, that’s a little snarky and it’s really only day 17 or so for me (but it sure feels like 987 days).  Like most of you reading this, I have been working from home, practicing social distancing, binging television shows, and reading a lot.  On that last one, more like devouring books and whatever other reading materials I can get my hands on.  In fact, I just finished an amazing two-part series by Dan Jones on English kings: “The Plantagenets” and “The Wars of the Roses.”  I highly recommend both to the history buffs out there.  One thing that stuck in my mind as I was reading these books was the use of seals by kings to “sign” documents (well, parchments actually).  For some reason, that got me thinking about how we sign documents today, especially contracts – the lifeblood of any company and the top priority of the in-house legal department.  That, in turn, got me thinking about all the different ways I have managed contract signings over the course of my in-house career, including the use of electronic signatures (yes, that is how my mind works).  Which made me start to wonder “how in the hell is an electronic signature valid… and have I been screwing this up for years?”  Intuitively, I know they are valid but I have to say I never spent a lot of time thinking about “how” or “why.”  The current pandemic crisis with its discouraged human interaction are the perfect launching pad for thinking about “signing” documents remotely and e-signatures are the perfect solution for that.  This edition of “Ten Things” walks you through what you need to know about electronic signatures: