Study: The Impact of Electronic Signatures on Law Firms’ Efficiency

Though electronic signatures have become a part of our everyday lives, we have seen a lag in the adoption of electronic signatures in the legal industry. Regardless of size, law firms’ clients, ranging from startups to large corporations, have adopted E-Signatures themselves, leading us to question why law firms have continued to refrain from utilizing E-Signatures in their own business practices. With this question in mind, we sought to analyze the gains in productivity that law firms could make by adopting E-Signature technology, namely ClientSide, our tailored E-Signature solution designed specifically for attorneys.

With our first-hand understanding of the fast paced nature of the legal industry, our primary variable of interest throughout this study was time spent by law firms on their signing processes. To gather our data, we surveyed our law firm clients on the evolution of their firms’ signing practices.

We sought to compare the amount of time it takes law firms to send and receive signed documents across various platforms. We hypothesized that by using our E-Signature technology, law firms would reduce the time it took to send and receive their documents. Three primary assumptions were essential to our data gathering for this portion of the study:

  1. The document size was one page,
  2. There was one recipient of the document, and
  3. Each signature request included sending two reminders.

We conducted a multimodal analysis using mail, fax, email, and our E-Signature platform to make this cross-platform comparison. We found that the time spent sending and receiving a signed document varied by platform: via mail it took 21.5 minutes; with fax, the time was reduced to 12 minutes; via email the time was further reduced to 10.5 minutes; and with ClientSide, the time fell dramatically to just 3 minutes. Our data confirmed our hypothesis by showing that using ClientSide could optimize a firms’ productivity up to sevenfold.

Efficiency - One-Pager

Interestingly, when we eliminated the assumptions of a one-page document and a single signer, the impact of ClientSide on productivity became even more pronounced. We found that with mail, fax, and email, the amount of time spent on these same signing tasks increased proportionally with the number of pages and number of signers. With ClientSide, however, the time spent on signing tasks was effectively constant, remaining consistently around three minutes. How does ClientSide manage to maintain its three-minute time regardless of document length and number of recipients, while other modes of signing see a continual rise?

The answer lies in the near absence of per page tasks when using our electronic signature platform. Per page tasks in a law firm’s signing processes require additional time per page. By contrast, per document tasks have the same duration regardless of document length (i.e. number of pages). Using mail entails four fundamental per page tasks:

  1. Printing the document
  2. Reviewing the document
  3. Copying the document, and
  4. Scanning the document;

With fax there are also four essential per page tasks:

  1. Printing the document
  2. Faxing the document to client(s)
  3. Reviewing the document
  4. Scanning the document)

With email there are three critical per page tasks:

  1. Printing the document
  2. Reviewing the document
  3. Scanning the document

Nearly all of ClientSide’s fundamental tasks are per document tasks, and therefore, an increase in document length or number of recipients is not accompanied by a significant increase in time expended. ClientSide’s sole per page task is identifying the signature fields, which takes a mere five seconds per page. By contrast, with mail, fax, and email, there are significantly greater time increases accompanying every per page task. Multi-page documents and the need for multiple signatures are extremely common in the legal industry. Having the ability to eliminate any extra time associated with multi-page documents or multiple signers saves law firms a significant amount of time on their signature processes.

Per Page Graphic

We, then, used this information on the time saved using ClientSide relative to other platforms to estimate the total amount of time that law firms could save per month. We acknowledged that signing tasks are typically handled by administrators who may or may not be shared by multiple attorneys and across practice areas. This inherent level of variance prompted our research team to develop a standard for administrative signing tasks per month, which we could then use to establish a comparison of law firms’ efficiency prior to adopting ClientSide and after adopting ClientSide. We ascertained, with input from our law firm clients, that an accurate estimate of the number of documents and pages per document that administrators send per month is 50 documents per month at four pages per document.

Using this standard, we calculated the total labor cost for sending these 50 documents with the law firms’ old signing methods (mail, fax, email). We then calculated the same firms’ total labor cost after implementing ClientSide for these fifty documents. We subtracted the total labor cost of using ClientSide from the total labor cost of their traditional signing method to calculate the firms’ total labor saved. Ultimately, we found that law firms, on average, save eight hours per administrator each month on administrative signing tasks alone! This finding is universally applicable to law firms, and shows that using an E-Signature solution increases productivity in all law firms regardless of size; each firm and each individual practice has the capacity to make monumental cutbacks in the time they spend on administrative signing tasks by relieving each administrator of a significant portion of the time they spend on these tasks.

The Positive Monetary Effect of ClientSide

From these findings, we have concluded that ClientSide’s E-Signatures do increase the efficiency of law firms dramatically; however, attorneys often respond to these findings with questions of how maximizing efficiency through E-Signatures would impact their revenue. Administrative signing tasks are traditionally non-billable tasks, which do not generate revenue for the firm. In fact, the law firm could potentially lose revenue with these non-billable tasks, as the administrators, who may be paid hourly, are compensated for the time they spend working on these tasks, though no charges can be ascribed to clients. Engagement letters are a universally applicable example of a type of document that all administrators must execute, but which are non-billable by nature. Obtaining client signatures on an engagement letter serves as an indication of the commencement of an attorney-client relationship. Therefore, any efforts expended in sending and receiving the engagement letter for signature are non-billable, as no attorney-client relationship has been legally established prior to the execution of this document. Using ClientSide dramatically reduces the time administrators sent preparing and processing documents, including engagement letters, thereby reducing the time spent on non-billable tasks. By freeing up the eight hours per administrator each month spent on these non-billable signing tasks, with ClientSide, law firms have the potential to replace this previously non-billable time with billable tasks that generate revenue for the firm.

Another question that often arises in the informational interviews with attorneys, centers on the possible transfer of the cost of ClientSide to clients. This is, in fact, a unique possibility that is provided by our E-Signature solution. With traditional signing methods, to charge clients for the time spent on signing tasks, firms must extensively extrapolate the steps involved in preparing a document. This extrapolation and the resulting seemingly trivial charges can have the effect of alienating clients. Per document pricing enables law firms to easily reallocate the dramatically reduced cost of obtaining signatures to the client. Responding specifically to the demand from transactional and IP attorneys, this is an easily quantifiable way to allocate the cost spent on preparing and sending a signed document to the client. Furthermore, our Audit Trail function provides a sound reason for assigning the cost of signing documents to the client. By producing an Audit Trail, law firms are able to provide concrete and tangible evidence of the authenticity of a document and its signatures. The Audit Trail, then, serves as evidence for the client that their documents have been handled properly, and therefore serve as a concrete representation of the lengths attorneys went to in securing the clients’ document and its signatures.

The Bottom Line

 With these findings in mind, ClientSide dramatically increases the speed and ease of business for law firms, with the added opportunity to maximize the firms’ revenue. We understand that within law firms there exists a conflicting pressure to reduce fees and simultaneously increase revenue. With ClientSide, law firms can manage to do both. ClientSide affords law firms greater flexibility in how they manage the cost of their signing processes enabling the possibility of growing revenue, while also fundamentally improving the productivity of the firm. By using ClientSide, our tailored E-Signature solution, law firms are better equipped to handle the business pressures of today and tomorrow and grow their firm into the future.

 

Written by: Mikhail Avady and Neha Vyas

How E-Signatures Can Improve Efficiency In Your Business

Did you know that it costs about $436.52 per year just to have one drawer of paperwork? The majority of printing in a law firm is for the intention of adding an ink signature. Even though most firms assume this is the only way to authenticate a legal document, the legal field does support electronic signatures (e-signatures) as a permissible alternative to hardcopy signing since the Federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act was enacted in 2000.

Now you may hear that e-signatures are the technology of the future, but I beg to differ. E-signatures are the technology of the NOW. For example, when you are buying groceries you may use your debit or credit card to pay and are required to sign a receipt digitally. Sometimes, if the amount is not high enough you are not required to sign at all. Signing a receipt digitally has been around for some time and has become mainstream in most buying scenarios.

The majority of documents requiring signatures have gone digital like mortgages, plane tickets, tax returns, and even patent applications. Currently many courts even require some type of electronic verification. So why do people still use “wet” signatures?
The truth is old habits die hard, and unfortunately, the dominance of hard-copy signatures still exists.

Source: Flaherty, D. Casey, and Corey Lavato. Digital Signatures And The Paperless Office.

E-signatures And The Modern Law Firm

In this era of technology, most people search for legal services online. Consumers rely more and more on social, mobile, and cloud computing to meet their day-to-day needs. Lawyers must consider how to effectively use technology to stay relevant and improve client experience. One such tool is the integration of e-signatures into a practice. This enables lawyers to increase client volume, save time, and lower overhead finances. E-signatures more specifically increase the speed of each transaction and advances the client’s needs forward in a shorter amount of time.

Using e-signatures to authenticate documents also increases security while reducing error rates and printing costs. Small and medium size firms need to be able to complete electronic transactions in order to stay competitive in today’s legal market. Many customers prefer to communicate and authenticate documents electronically. By adapting your firm’s practice to e-signatures, you will be able to access a larger client pool as well as bring cumulative value to every client interaction.

Source: Maciage, Gregory A, E-signatures: The Sign Of The Times

Should My Firm Automate our Intake Process?

The legal field has recently been transitioning towards more technological based operations. This means the integration of e-signatures and the automation of client intake. Amalgamating new technology into the daily operations of a practice can make or break a business is this era of startups. Automated client intake not only makes it easier for you to work with clients, but easier for your staff as well.

Recent technology has completely changed how people access legal information and the amount of money clients are willing to spend for lawyer services. People want affordable services that are efficient and easy to access. This is why automated intake is so important for your everyday mundane tasks so that you and your staff have more time to focus on bringing value to each client interaction.

In conclusion, automating client intake helps reduce overhead expenses, increases value in customer interaction, and allows your firm to customize its practice. If all of these attributes sound like something you are interested in for your business, then automation is the key to taking your practice to that next level.

Source(s):
George, Aaron, Why Automation Is The Key To Survival For Lawyers.
Sickmeyer, Janine, Legal Startups In 2014.

Make A Lasting Impression: Electronic Intake For Clients

Lawyers who utilize technology tools for collaboration have a significant advantage in the legal field. The question is not a matter of IF practices will start to utilize electronic intake, but a matter of WHEN. It is increasingly necessary for modern businesses to have a trained staff on automated client intake. Engagement is often the earliest interaction with the client and a chance for a business to make a good first impression. Automated electronic intake ensures the integrity of documents and that they are error free and consistent. Through automation, manual errors are eradicated and paperwork is processed in less than half the time. Electronic intake also allows businesses to track their day-to-day operations. For example, reports can be generated to find out how the firm is performing as well as where the majority of revenue is come from. If your firm chooses to automate intake, you will surely make a positive lasting impression.

Source(s):
Evans, Gareth & Grant David, Tools Let Attorneys Follow the Breadcrumbs.
Strong, Frank, Best Practices For Effective Law Firm Client Intake.

Why Should My Firm Use Electronic Client Intake?

There is a notable resistance to modern technology in the legal field. Attorneys must be ethical within their practice in order to provide the best service possible to their clients. This means that law firms must use timesaving tools that enable legal processes to be complete in a timely manner. For example, an attorney has a moral obligation to utilize technology and processes that are economical when billing hourly in contrast to using out dated methods that take longer. Technology should be embraced in a law practice so that operations can run seamlessly between attorney and client. Your firm’s ability to integrate modern technology represents its independence from dated tools and openness to providing the best service possible. Embracing modern technology also enables your firm to function normally so that billing can remain consistent and fluid. Electronic intake and billing allows you to not only have the best law practice possible, but also has the ability to increase client intake and streamline operations.

Source: Calloway, Jim, It’s Time To Love Technology.

Why Is There A Resistance To Integrate E-signatures Into A Business?

Many people have concerns when thinking about integrating the use of electronic signatures into their business. This is typically due to intricacy, authentication concerns, security concerns, cost, and present corporate culture. It is important to be aware of the difference between an e-signature and a digital signature. An e-signature is the use of a symbol or process that is associated with a document with the purpose of authorization; a digital signature is most commonly used in financial transactions or to endorse checks.

Businesses that do not utilize e-signatures usually perceive the technology to have a lack of user friendliness. People who do not understand the technology usually view them as having a low level of security and a high level of complexity. However, this is not true since they are actually more capable of being tracked than traditional ink signatures. There are also notable legal concerns in relation to authentication and making sure that a document has not been tampered with or photocopied. There is a general fear that hackers will be able to access electronic documents and steal personal information. Electronic signatures always require unique passwords and even use biometrics to curtail access by unauthorized users.

For hundreds of years there has been a ceremonious custom of physically signing a document. Additionally, companies that resist the use of e-signatures claim that integration costs can be high and are already accustomed to ink signatures, thus see no reason for change. E-signature technology has come a long way in the past decade and no longer requires an IT team to design and manage the software. E-signatures can be assimilated directly into your website and allows clients and employees alike to easily upload and transfer documents seamlessly. However, many companies are not ready to change and update their corporate culture.

E-signatures are a great way to increase client intake and reduce operational costs. It is important to know what misconceptions businesses often have about the technology and that it will eventually be the only way to sign documents.

Source: Srivastava, Aashish, Resistance To Change: Six Reasons Why Businesses Don’t Use E-Signatures.

E-Lawyering: Electronic Tools For Attorney Efficiency

The legal landscape has been changing towards electronic processes since ESIGN was enacted the year 2000. Currently, the legal industry trend for consumers is to seek attorneys who do not charge hourly, who they trust to represent their best interests and most of all who they believe are using the most efficient and up-to-date tools. Therefore, it is important to make sure your firm is utilizing operations that not only keep your clients happy but also improve efficiency.

Using electronic platforms for intake provides many benefits to the attorney-client relationship such as increased transparency, reduced legal fees, and a quicker turnaround. This will assure clients that that your firm is acting to the best of its ability to provide quality legal services. Electronic intakes means increased productivity for your firm and reduced legal fees for clients resulting in a competitive and economic environment (also known as eLawyering).

The first step in creating an eLawyer practice is to map out a strategy and take note of who your existing clients are, where potential clients may be, and how your firm can most effectively serve them. It is important to take into consideration the timing, pricing, and the learning curve that are associated with the transition. Nonetheless, the result is a secure space for each client to download, sign, and upload documents in a timely manner. Strategizing how to integrate electronic intake into your firm’s business will provide an opportunity for not only increased efficiency but also a broader spectrum to reach clients.

Source: Granat, S. Richard. eLawyering: Providing More Efficient Legal Services With Today’s Technology.