Increasingly in-house legal teams are required to look into tech and digital solutions to save costs and drive efficiencies.

This year's FT Innovative Lawyers - Top In-House Legal Team have driven very ambitious and inspiring innovative projects at the top of law tech, looking not just at what technology does but what it can do for them and their businesses.

Simple solutions like electronic signing can also drive huge cost savings and be at the heart of digital transformation. Saving time and costs (whether it is the costs of paper and ink) as well as improving the environmental footprint, e-signing also provides the flexbility to access signatories remotely.  

The technology is here and improving daily and it is an easy first step for in-house improvements, but a number of humps are hindering adoption; and one of them is the debate around the legal validity of e-signing. Whereas, as a matter of English law, the position seems settled for simple contracts (which do not require even to be in writing), main concerns have been expressed around statutory formalities of signing or formalities around deeds.

A welcome development in this context is the recent consultation paper from the Law Commission on the electronic execution of documents as part of the 13th Programme of Law Reform.

https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/electronic-execution-of-documents/

The consultation paper confirms the 2001 Law Commission's advice on electronic commerce and formal requirements in commercial transactions and the 2016 practice note on the execution of a document using electronic signature from the Law Society Company Law Committee and The City of London Law Society Company Law and Financial Law Comittees, affirming strongly the legal vailidity of electronic signatures so long as it can be shown that the purpose of the relevant signature/digital mark is to authenticate documents. The paper looks also at deed's witnessing and delivery formalities and how technology can accomodate rather than hinder those. And as a result the Law Commission recommends very little legislative change comparatively, and mainly around enabling remote witnessing.

This is only at consultation stage however and it will be interesting to follow what happens next...