eSignature

The Ultimate Guide to eSignatures: What You Need To Know

Jul 27, 2022
Reading Time: 7 minutes
Written by Angela Omari

Many businesses are turning away from ink-to-paper signatures in favour of digital processes that are more efficient and secure.

What is this digital process that we speak of? It’s eSignatures. 

Due to legislation and regulations responding to businesses’ changing needs, eSignatures are widely used across Australia, with many businesses expanding their use of this tool. 

If you want to streamline the administrative process in your business, reduce business risks and save resources, eSignatures are what you need. 

In our ultimate guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how they work, legal requirements around their workings, and their core benefits. 

Read along!

What are eSignatures? 

An eSignature, also known as an electronic signature, is a quick and legally binding way to get approval on electronic documents. As eSignatures are secure and verifiable, they can replace a handwritten signature in virtually any process to indicate authorisation or consent. 

An eSignature can be applied in the following ways

  • Simply typing your name
  • Inserting a photo of your signature
  • Drawing it on your screen

What are the benefits of electronic signatures? 

Electronic signatures are increasingly becoming a necessity in a paperless, digital world. Besides being legally acceptable, electronic signatures provide many advantages that can improve your business’s daily processes. 

The key advantages of an eSignature include

1. Operational efficiency

Using an electronic signature will:

  • Reduce the time spent waiting for a signatory to be available for a wet signature 
  • Save time singing, printing and manually posting documents 
  • Allow you the chance to save time on contract creation with customers, contractors and employees
  • Enable everyone, whether they are inside or outside your business, to sign at any time from any device

2. User experience

The benefits include:

  • Leveraging electronic signatures will improve the customer experience
  • Providing the convenience to sign a contract from anywhere 
  • Flexibility for your stakeholders to use any device to sign a contract. For example, using a smartphone, laptop or tablet.
  • It saves time as the transaction can be completed within minutes.

3. Security

Security is maintained with eSignatures because:

  • Each signature is protected with a tamper-proof seal – Alerts you if changes are made to the document after signing 
  • Different levels of authentication can be used 
  • There is a trail of online evidence and a backup of documents 
  • Less manual checks are required to reduce the level of human error that can occur

4. Positive impact on sustainability

Here are a few reasons:

  • By signing remotely, you reduce the need to travel, whether it’s with your car or using public transportation
  • Using an eSignautre means reducing the need for printing paper documents
  • Signing electronically means there is no need for copying, scanning and physically archiving the paper documents once you’re done. This can all be stored and uploaded online

5. Reducing business costs

Costs will be reduced in the following ways:

  • Reducing staff hours required in preparing physical paper contracts and documents
  • Reducing administrative costs – No need for paper, stamps, ink, space for physical archiving 
  • Electronic signing automation reduces labour, and there is less room for human error, thereby saving time and money.

6. Tracking progress

Often when needing a signature from a stakeholder, it can be challenging to track the document’s progress and if it has even been signed.  With an electronic signature, you won’t have this issue because:

  • Using electronic signature software will help you track the progress of all your documents online 
  • Some software solutions give you the chance to send reminder emails
  • The electronic signing process means that you can keep all your records in an organised manner online

7. Some other key advantages of eSignatures include:

  • Compliance – Electronic signatures can always be up to date and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations
  • Scalability – You can keep more documents as they will be stored online
  • Improved customer relationships by providing a simple and easy-to-use document management experience
  • Streamline – streamline contract execution and increase employee productivity by fully automating your document workflow
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What is the difference between eSignature and a digital signature? 

Although eSignatures and digital signatures are often used interchangeably, they are different. 

An electronic signature is not always a digital signature, whereas a digital signature is always an electronic signature. The two have different signing methods. What this means is that a digital signature relies on something that is called cryptography-based technology. 

Cryptography-based technology will provide your document with an extra level of integrity and security. This is because once you have provided your signature, the contents of the message can’t be modified without the validity of the signature breaking. 

On the other hand, an electronic signature can simply be an image of your signature passed into a word document, for example, or even your email signature.  

Either way, both signature forms can be used and are legally binding.

How do electronic signatures work? 

Electronic signatures work uniquely based on a protocol called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). The PKI uses two algorithms to create two keys, one which is private and the other public. 

The unique numbers in the keys offer a record of the time and date a particular signature takes place and holds information about the signature, such as the signer’s IP address. 

In addition to the two keys, electronic signatures work by creating an authentic and unique signature for each signer every time they sign a document. This is just like a handwritten signature, which is also unique to each individual person. 

The best part about eSignatures is the level of security that comes with it. For example, the system essentially associated a signer with a document in the form of a coded message. 

This means that if another individual who tries to tamper with the document in any way, and this signature does not match, the receiver of the document and the signature will be invalid.

Are electronic signatures legally binding?   

Electronic signatures are legally binding and are recognised and enforceable in almost every part of the world. In Australia, eSignatures became legal in 1999 under the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (Cth). 

The Electronic Transactions Act regulates the use of eSignatures; however, for the eSignature to be considered legally enforceable, there must be:

  • Consent by the recipient to receive electronic documents 
  • Identify the individual who is agreeing to the electronic document
  • Clarify that the eSignature means that the recipient is accepting the document
  • Reliable and appropriate for the document’s purposes

Electronic signatures can also be used for legal documents such as deeds and agreements under the Corporations Amendment (Meetings and Documents) Act 2022. This means that agents can sign deeds without being appointed by deed (such as a power of attorney).

Who can use electronic signatures? 4 Things to Know 

As a business owner, you can use electronic signing in many different circumstances, no matter what industry you’re in. For example, electronic signatures are primarily used for the following tasks.

  • Used for multiple providers who need to provide signatures on the same document, e.g. Real estate transactions — leases
  • Government applications
  • Healthcare applications
  • Human resources- tracking employee lifecycles, employee onboarding
  • Contracts – services and goods
  • Intellectual property licensing
  • Deeds 
  • Agreements, including Non-Disclosure Agreements 

In addition to how you can use electronic signatures, here 4 other things to know if you sign a document using an eSignature.

1. Are eSignatures used around the world?

eSignatures are frequently used around the world, legal around the world, as well as in Australia. For example

  • The United States — Legal under the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA)
  • Europe — Compliant with eIDAS and European Union electronic signature technical standards.

2. Do I have to include my name in my eSignature?

Your eSignature doesn’t need to include your full name; however, because your eSignature will identify you, there needs to be a correlation. If you don’t want to use your full name, you can choose to add your initials instead.

3. How do I sign electronically?

Most electronic signature tools will allow you to sign the document by typing or drawing your name on the computer or mobile device. Alternatively, you can upload an image of your signature. With Lawpath’s eSignature tool, you have the option of both.

4.  What is considered an electronic signature?

The e-signature is an electronic symbol, usually the person’s name, demonstrating consent for a document or contract. Every transaction in which they are used is legally binding.

How Lawpath Can Help (How To Create eSignatures) 

Now that you understand what eSignature are and how they work, why not use eSignatures in your business to save money, manage risks and increase productivity.

The best part is that Lawpath has an eSignature tool that can help you ensign it, bind it and send it!

Our electronic signature solution is a safe, secure, and hassle-free way to sign documents online with just a few clicks. Why should you use Lawpaths eSignature to stay on top of all your business and legal needs? This is because:

  • Our e-signature tool is a self-sign service – This means that you can sign and send unlimited documents whenever and from wherever you’d like.
  • Unlimited signatures – You can ensign, send and track unlimited documents monthly.
  • Binding legal documents – Lawpaths eSignature tool abides by the Electronic Transaction Act, meaning that all your contracts and documents are binding at the click of a button. 
  • Safety and security – With end-to-end encryption, all documents are stored in ISO-27001 certified data centers, protected by Australian data privacy laws. Audit trails provide time stamps for defensible proof of access, review, and signature. 
  • Seamless user experience – With Lawpath’s eSignature tool, co-signers don’t need to have a lawpath account to sign your document making Lawpath’s tool an efficient contract management system. 

If you’re ready to take a step towards a more digital and seamless world, our eSignature tool will do this for your business. Learn more here to get started today.

Conclusion

With the advent of eSignatures, the multiday process of signing and sending ink-to-paper signatures is history.

Today, businesses are taking advantage of online eSignatures to complete their business’s legal and business requirements safely, securely, efficiently, and timely manner. 

From understanding how they work to evaluating the legal and procedural benefits they provide in our post, why not use Lawpath’s eSignature tool today. Leave the hard work to us so you can focus more on accelerating growth in your business.

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