What is an Electronic Signature?

Understanding the terms of an agreement between two parties has always been an important part of how we do business. In fact, business and contracts have always come hand in hand. The first ever written document is a form of contract. But as times have changed, and the world has moved to digital devices, it was only natural for the way we negotiate, send, and sign contracts to change too.

Digitally created contracts and e-signatures are becoming the new norm as more businesses are moving towards paperless and remote working, in order to ensure they promote efficient contract management and remain ahead of the curve. While some businesses are holding back from adopting e-signatures for their agreements, it cannot be denied that legal technology at this level can improve efficiency and reduce legal drag.

What is the difference between e-Signature and digital signature?

E-Signatures and digital signatures both add authenticity and integrity to documents but in different ways. A digital signature is a type of e-Signature but is more secure as it utilises more security features, like encryption, to protect the document. An e-Signature is more akin to a handwritten signature on a document. An e-signature may verify a document but a digital signature secures the document.

What is an e-Signature?

An electronic or e-Signature is a visible representation of a person’s name or mark signalling their assent to a document. An e-signature holds equivalent weight and is as binding on a digital contract as a handwritten signature is on a paper contract.

What is a digital signature?

A digital signature is a symbol or mark that guarantees an electronic document is authentic. These signatures use a standard, accepted format to provide the highest levels of security called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

Are electronic signatures legally binding in Australia?

In short, yes. E-signatures have been recognised in Australia by law since the Electronic Transactions Act, 1999. The Act in the Commonwealth, States and Territories of Australia confirms that as long as certain requirements are met, and relevant exceptions do not apply, electronic documents and signatures are valid and enforceable documents.

Standard Electronic Signatures (SES) are typically appropriate for:

  • HR documents

  • Commercial agreements

  • Consumer agreements

  • Real estate documents

How to create an electronic signature?

There are a few different ways you can create your electronic signature to sign a document. You can:

  • Upload and attach a picture of your signature to the document

  • Use your finger, a stylus, or your cursor to draw your signature on the document

  • Use your keyboard to type your signature on the document

Generally, these forms of signature are only valid if:

  • The signer has also given their consent by the recipient

  • The signing process must identify the person and and indicate the signer approves of their signature being used for their agreement and consent for the contract

  • The signature software must be reliable

Many businesses are opting to adopt digital contract management software like Plexus to help manage and execute their contracts digitally.

Can you witness an electronic signature?

Due to changes made as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, jurisdictions across Australia have allowed ​​signatories (people signing a document) and witnesses to sign in each other’s presence via an audio visual link.

Plexus and DocuSign®

Plexus is the world’s most advanced legal operating system. The platform’s features enable in-house legal teams and their broader business functions to drive efficiency and competitive advantage. Plexus' modules allow the user to create, negotiate and execute agreements completely through the platform.

Plexus has partnered with DocuSign® to integrate our globally-adopted legal automation and workflow management platform with their secure and trusted signatory brand to complete the contract execution workflow. This perfect partnership gives in-house lawyers the tools they should have always had to get the job done.

How to use Plexus with DocuSign® integration

Plexus' Approve and Sign tool comes inbuilt with DocuSign® integration. This allows business users to upload their contracts, assign approvers and signatories, and send agreements to their counterparty for execution.

As a bonus, Plexus ' enables users to set fully configurable reminders so they never miss a contract expiry or renewal. When Lawyers can get ahead of the renewal process, they can prevent loss of revenue or clients or loss of support or service from suppliers.

All signed contracts are then stored within Plexus', giving the business a single source of truth, plus a full audit trail.

What does the counterparty see when I send them a document for e-signature?

Your counterparty will receive an email from Plexus. They simply click the green Review and Sign button and follow the prompt to enter the Counterparty Portal.

Your counterparty will be taken to a secure, ring-fenced area, allowing the signer to view the document. They are then able to Sign the document via DocuSign® or Decline the document and add comments as a response.

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