Womble Bond Dickinson: why digitisation is so important for the legal sector
Momentum 2021 - Customer Success
At this year’s Momentum, we reviewed the innovation we’ve seen over the last year, through customer interviews, demos, panels and breakout sessions. Here we delve into how leading law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) is using eSignature and its eWitness feature to drive transformation in the legal sector. We also deep dive into eWitness—what it is and how it can be used.
Can you tell us a bit about Womble Bond Dickinson and your role?
Womble Bond Dickinson is a transatlantic law firm with 27 offices across the UK and the US. In the UK, we are a top 20 law firm.
I am a former Corporate M&A lawyer and currently work as a Practice Development Lawyer at WBD within the Corporate Team. My role has a strong focus on innovation, technology and driving forward change initiatives. I’m the joint product owner for eSignature at WBD and co-led the firm-wide roll-out of e-signatures.
You’re quite vocal around the need for law firms to adopt more digital practices. Why is this important to you?
The legal sector is undergoing rapid change at the moment. It was before the pandemic and now this has accelerated even more. Clients are asking us to do more for less. We need to adopt digital practices to deliver those efficiencies and to allow our lawyers to focus on more high value legal work and less admin. E-signatures have a key role to play in that digitalisation.
eSignature was on our digital roadmap before the pandemic. It was a relief to have onboarded eSignatures before COVID hit and signatories being required to work from home.
It’s interesting you say you were relieved you had deployed eSignature before the pandemic hit. What impact has COVID had on the usage of eSignature across the business— what are the top eSignature features that you have found most useful?
Our usage of eSignature across the business has simply exploded since the COVID pandemic. In fact, there was an immediate spike in usage literally on the day of the first lockdown on 23 March 2020. We have now achieved the milestone of 5,500 envelopes sent since the first lockdown.
Workflow and access to a digital process – for eSignature and eWitnessing: limited access to printer/scanners while working at home made wet ink or virtual completions by email very difficult. eSignature has allowed us to keep our deal pipeline flowing. Some of our documents require witnessing so the eWitnessing feature has been a really important feature for collecting witnessed signatures.
Tracking – ability to track the status of the signing and witnessing process.
Templates – this allows you to set up a typical workflow so it can be re-used by our users. Using templates has further streamlined our process and made it even more efficient.
We get lots of questions around electronic witnessing especially at the start of lockdown. Can you share your experience—when did you start using it and how was it received?
We’ve been using the electronic witnessing feature right from the start of our eSignature journey within the Corporate Team, even before the pandemic. There are some legal risks to mitigate under English law such as around the witness being physically present when the signer taps the buttons to apply their electronic signature but once we addressed those, it was easily received. We have some standard wording in our eSignature messages to brief the signer and witness with our witnessing do's and don'ts.
Finally, two- factor authentication is now available for eWitnessing which is an important development. This means the signatory or witness inputs a passcode sent to them by eSignature before starting the signing process. The HM Land Registry requires two-factor authentication to be used for witnesses as well as signatories to maximise the security of the signing process.
What are the key benefits of using eSignature and the eWitness feature?
Speed: reducing contract turnaround times. Here are some of our stats: 84% of documents are signed in less than 24 hours via eSignature, and 63% within an hour.
Control: Using eSignature gives us more control over the signing process and the visibility to track where an agreement is. It can even send automated reminders for you.
Improving the client experience: this is something our clients want to use. The signing experience is seamless and it is literally impossible for signatories to sign in the wrong place or miss a signature block.
Flexibility: the functionality is incredibly flexible and eSignature workflows are adapted by our different teams to meet our diverse clients' needs.
Integrations with other platforms (APIs) - so with document management systems and collaboration tools such as HighQ. Don’t view eSignature in isolation but as part of your toolkit.
More secure - the auto-generated certificate of completion records the email addresses the document was sent to, the time and date it was opened and signed and the IP addresses of the devices used. You can also apply two-factor authentication including now for eWitnessing.
Take a few minutes to watch the full interview below or click here to see Momentum in-full, on-demand.
Product Spotlight - eWitness
What is electronic witnessing?
DocuSign eWitness is a feature of DocuSign eSignature, that allows organisations in the UK to enable signers to identify up to two witnesses to sign an agreement or deed in a simple and electronic manner.
DocuSign eWitness captures the witness transaction details in the Certificate of Completion to provide a record of who signed and who witnessed the signature process.
What are the benefits of DocuSign eWitness?
- Get going quickly
- Accelerate agreement completion
- Reduced Risk
- Capture court-admissible evidence
- Save time and money
Discover Everything you need to know about electronic witnessing of agreements and when signatures are required to be witnessed in the UK—or for more details on how eWitness can help you meet HM Land Registry requirements, watch the video below:
You can also see the full demo of how it’s possible to easily collect and witness signatures from clients—capturing the IP addresses and geo-locations for all recipients. Using eSignature and eWitness offers users a smooth experience that eliminates the need for printing, scanning and mailing paper deeds. Or read our blog on our recent eWitness enhancement.