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:
- The document size was one page,
- There was one recipient of the document, and
- 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.
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:
- Printing the document
- Reviewing the document
- Copying the document, and
- Scanning the document;
With fax there are also four essential per page tasks:
- Printing the document
- Faxing the document to client(s)
- Reviewing the document
- Scanning the document)
With email there are three critical per page tasks:
- Printing the document
- Reviewing the document
- 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.
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