Yes, it is just as legally binding and a lot more secure to sign contracts using electronic signatures. Obviously it's also faster.
In reality, you rarely get a contract on paper anymore. Just like parties and lawyers negotiate remotely using phones and emails, contracts are being printed, signed using a pen, scanned and emailed and then a lawyer is merging the different scans at the end of a pdf containing the contract. This silly practise has lasted for many years although it is wrong on so many levels.
The EIDAS regulation establishes a framework for electronic signatures throughout Europe.
On 8 January 2019, the Danish Supreme Court ruled in a case regarding abuse of the dignital signature NemID. Two persons had handed over usernames and passwords for their NemID to third parties, who then abused the NemID to digitally sign loan agreements in a bank.
The Supreme Court ruled that a lower court could enforce the digitally signed debt instruments against the real owners of the digital signatures although they had not signed the debt instruments themselves.
Yu can read more here (Danish).
ePact is already one of the most user friendly, yet secure signature applications in Europe. But we actually aim higher than that. We want to build better tools for drafting the contracts in the first place.
We have long been quite jaloux with the editors used by developers. They are much more advanced than the typical text editors lawyers use, while at the same time they don't need to worry about formatting behaving differently than we want. Text editors such as MS Word served a great purpose back when lawyers printed contracts. But we rarely do that anymore. Even large transactions are handled digitally nowadays.
When you remove printing form the equation, you realize that lawyers are better served with developer like editors. We want
- very little formatting, mainly handling the way we number the different parts of our contracts (articles etc.)
- assistance with all our definitions
- metadata on the different parts of the contracts
- auto-completed standard phrases
- templates contracts
- template clauses
- references to applicable legislation
- integration to signing
- automatic check of parties names, addresses, business registration numbers etc.
- automatic check of who can sign for the parties involved
- version control
- multi selection
- search and replace and similar features working across different files in the same transactions
We will launch it little by little, starting January 2019.
We are building our own database of contract templates and template clauses. We will introduce templates from January 2019 and expect to add 1-3 new templates per week during 2019.
Each template will have different alternative clauses to chose between.
Contracts don't exist in a vacuum. They exist with legislation and court precedence that implicitly regulates the parties' relationship. Sometimes legislation overrules contractual terms, sometimes you can derogate from the default legislative rules in your contracts.
Our templates will reflect that reality by incoroorating references to relevant legislation and court rulings in the metadata.
The metadata will also include information on what the different parts of the contracts regulate.
We will also introduce legal guides that enable junior lawyers to quickly get an overview of the considerations and issues at hand and may serve as checklist for more experienced lawyers.
Signing documents has never
been so easy and fast