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Allen & Overy launches e-signing in England as industry consensus on validity emerges

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Wall Elizabeth
Elizabeth Wall

PSL Cnsl/Head KH, Global Corp


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25 July 2016

​Allen & Overy announced today it is launching an e-signing facility for its clients following an industry consensus around the use of e-signatures in commercial contracts governed by English law.

Elizabeth Wall, A&O’s head of London Corporate Know-How, played a central role in establishing the legal validity of e-signatures in commercial contracts in her capacity as chair of the Company Law Committee at The Law Society of England and Wales. Elizabeth convened and chaired a joint working party of The Law Society and the City of London Law Society, which, after months of work, has just published guidance on e-signatures

Elizabeth commented: “Although e-signatures have been in use for some time, there has been no consensus among the legal industry on their validity. The work of the Law Society and the City of London Law Society, which brought together a working group comprising almost 30 law firms, will help the industry get comfortable with electronic signatures and embrace the practical benefits of offering e-signing solutions to clients. It also means that those law firms and clients wanting to use e-signatures are more likely to find willing participants on the other side of the deal.”

A&O has been working with its preferred supplier, DocuSign, to develop an e-signing process that meets the quality and assurance standards expected by the firm and its clients, and has put in place guidelines and operational processes for ensuring legal effectiveness. The audit trail provided by DocuSign details each step of the signing process, and includes data on signatories' IP addresses to aid in the identification and validation of those executing documents.

There are inherent efficiencies in the use of e-signatures, particularly in today’s evolving workplace where people increasingly work virtually. The use of e-signatures is just one way in which A&O is adopting new technology to meet and exceed the demands of its clients.

A&O will begin offering e-signatures in its London office in July, focusing initially on English law.  The firm then plans to roll out e-signatures to other jurisdictions where local law allows, using its global network to obtain local law opinions on the validity of e-signatures in those markets.

The launch of e-signing builds on A&O’s suite of alternative delivery solutions created to solve client challenges. These solutions include MarginMatrix™, a major bespoke project launched in collaboration with Deloitte in June to develop a digital compliance system to tackle new regulatory requirements for the USD500 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market, as well as the Legal Services Centre in Belfast, Peerpoint, aosphere, the Project Management Office and technologies such as Collaborate and Ringtail caseroom.

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