66%contracts signed in under 1 hour
4,000envelopes sent using DocuSign eSignature since lockdown
88%contracts signed in under 24 hours
Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) is a full service transatlantic law firm which has over 120 partners and around 450 lawyers in eight offices across the UK as well as 540 lawyers working in 19 offices in the US. The innovative firm is in the UK's top 20 law firms and was ranked in the FT Innovative Lawyers in Europe report 2020.
WBD has a commitment to innovative technology and recognises the need for the legal sector to embrace innovation in order to remain competitive, relevant and progressive. Together, Katherine Crowley, Real Estate Practice Development Manager and Suzanne Gado, Managing Associate (PDL) in the Corporate Team, have been pioneering the adoption of electronic signatures within their firm and in the wider legal sector. Their determination to implement innovative technology led to their nomination by WBD as ‘Intrapreneurs of the Year’ for the FT Innovative Lawyers Awards 2020.
The firm is now using DocuSign eSignature throughout the business; here we look at it’s implementation and the results that they are seeing.
WBD discovers a better way of executing documents
With a strong focus on innovation, WBD’s dedicated Innovation Group (to which Katherine and Suzanne belong) works with lawyers and clients to identify opportunities and deliver projects across the firm that will drive their business and clients forward.
However, as a full-service law firm advising hundreds of organisations across 12 sectors, WBD deals with a variety of stakeholders and handles very different work streams. The adoption of new technology can be challenging with each sector having different priorities and requirements.
For electronic signature it was a similar story. While DocuSign eSignature has now been rolled out across all teams, it was first used by the Corporate team in 2018 as part of their digital transformation journey. The Corporate team had been seeking to increase efficiency with the ultimate goal of managing transactions fully online and digitizing the deal process. The team recognised that traditional ‘wet ink’ signatures and virtual signings via email were outdated and causing numerous inefficiencies. They are now using eSignature for most deals and seeing impressive results.
The recent shift to remote working meant that as well as the Corporate team ramping up usage other teams within the firm quickly began implementing the electronic signature solution in order to keep business moving. DocuSign was an enabler at the height of Lockdown and since then it has driven a very welcome move away from paper towards more efficient digital working practices and processes.
WBD teams embrace eSignature
DocuSign eSignature adoption is growing, with 65% of WDB employees now using the tool–this includes lawyers from most teams as well as other staff including the HR team.
Lockdown highlighted to the Real Estate team the need to transform its signing process too. They relied wholly on paper with documents emailed out, then printed and physically signed by multiple people across the UK and abroad and returned via post or courier once the signatures were gathered—making it impossible to know when the agreement would reappear.
The often lengthy timeline and lack of visibility was problematic. And there was always room for error with mistakes made on signing or even the chance of the document getting lost in the post. Following the Law Commission's report on electronic signatures in September 2019 and the HM Land Registry’s acceptance of electronic signature in conveyancing in July 2020, the Real Estate team was finally able to execute documents using eSignature—speeding up the final signing stage of a transaction has been critical in the uncertain business environment created by COVID-19.
The HR team has transformed its onboarding process of new hires, using eSignature to eliminate the need for the printing and postage of employment contracts—replacing a slow, expensive, paper-intensive process with one that’s streamlined and fit for purpose.
The Litigation team and the Legal Solutions Centre is using e-signature to replace old workflows, including capturing client consent on claim forms and witness statements.
E-signature improves speed, efficiency and customer satisfaction
Due to the conservative nature of the legal sector WBD was very specific while choosing an e-signature platform: they needed a recognisable brand, a tool that could be easily implemented and a solution that could be integrated with other systems. It became apparent very quickly that, as a market leader and with over 350 APIs, DocuSign eSignature was the perfect fit.
Having achieved the milestone of 4,000 envelopes sent since lockdown, DocuSign has more than proven its worth. WBD has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both employees and clients—electronic signatures are reducing contract turnaround times, improving the customer experience, and increasing efficiency; enabling lawyers to focus on important work rather than wasting time tracking, chasing and manually completing documents.
DocuSign eSignature has now been adopted by almost all WBD teams—enabling employees to gain control over the signing process by eliminating the need for scanning, printing and posting. 88% of contracts signed via DocuSign are now signed in less than 24 hours, and 66% of them signed in less than an hour. It used to take a minimum of 2 days to obtain “wet ink” signatures and sometimes up to a week.
WBD is reducing its environmental impact as well as saving on time and costs
WBD is always looking for ways that it can reduce its environmental impact and make positive changes. The organisation has been impressed by the significant environmental savings e-signature has brought so far—conserving 59,209 litres of water and 2,410 kilos of wood, averting 5,656 kilogrammes of CO2 emissions and eliminating 392 kilogrammes of waste.
WBD crusade the use of e-signature to make things easier for lawyers and their clients
Moving forward, WBD intends to bring electronic signing to even more of its employees and clients—blazing a trail for the entire legal sector to follow. Katherine and Suzanne will be instrumental in this via their internal dedicated WBD DocuSign user forum as well as collaborating with other law firms to share best practice.
Moving to eSignatures has provided many benefits to the firm; as well as being faster and a lot more reliable than ‘wet ink signatures’ it has been business critical during the pandemic, supporting users working remotely and empowering clients to sign contracts from almost anywhere on nearly any device.