What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature, also called an eSignature, is merely a digitalized version of a traditional physical signature, making it easier to sign documents. Like a handwritten signature, electronic signatures serve to prove that the signer has approved the document in question.

People also like eSignatures because they make documents look more professional, which is very important when trying to project the right image in the business world.

Electronic signatures can be set up in a number of ways. Electronic signatures, as well as all other forms of signature, may seem like gold nuggets of the legal world, but they are more malleable than you might expect. You can skip down to the bottom if you are only interested in how to create an e-signature, but for more background read on first.

Creating a signature can be done in different ways, including typing, touching, drawing, and uploading images. You could sign your name with a checkbox or an ‘X’ (as long as you do that consistently for your signature). You could also use a cryptographic key.

All of them can be used to sign a document.

However, this isn’t always the case, even if you use a ‘signature’. If you apply an electronic signature, it still means nothing (signing an e-card), but a quick tick of a checkbox implies you’ve signed a contract…

You will have realized the difference between an ‘electronic signature‘ that means something or nothing, depending on the context.

First electronic contract in the UK was an email signed with a name typed at the bottom, or in other words, signed off like every other email ever sent. As it turned out, the content was a contract, and the typed name in that context was the person’s electronic signature.

Your signature is a representation of you, and your writing of it, or application of it, is a representation of your intent. To make a valid electronic signature, you must confirm your intent.

Because of this, you can scribble an ‘X’ at the bottom of a document or tick a box and still be considered to have signed it.

1. Simple signature with your pen, paper, and phone – the ‘old’ electronic signature method. To get a neat image of your signature, sign your name on a piece of paper, photograph it, and cut it down in a desktop photo editor. If they are inserted into a document and sent back to them, many people will accept them.

2. Adobe Reader for signing with a basic signature. Reader comes with an inbuilt signature feature.feature.feature. On the top bar, you’ll see an icon of a fountain pen, click that, then select ‘Sign’ from the menu. You can either type or scrawl your signature and place it on the page. Save your PDF and send it back to the sender.

3. Electronic signatures that are qualified. In the European Regulation on Electronic Signatures (eIDAS), a ‘qualified’ signature is defined at the top-level of signatures. You can obtain a qualified signature using cryptography. Each one has its own method for applying itself to the document. A qualified signature might be associated with your ID card in some European countries. It may be better to use an ‘advanced’ electronic signature if the document does not require a qualified signature, and you do not have one already.

4. Advanced electronic signature. You can easily sign documents via Legalesign if someone sends them to you. Follow the link you were sent via email, go through any additional verification (such as SMS validation), and then sign the document with whatever options the sender provides. This could be a multi-touch or mouse-drawn signature, or it could be a typed or uploaded signature (even if you create an image via method 1 and upload it to Legalesign, in our context it becomes an ‘advanced electronic signature’). Make sure all other fields on the form are filled out and confirm your submission. You will just have used an ‘advanced’ electronic signature. To sign a document that has been sent to you or to send a document to be signed, sign up now, and you will receive five free electronic signatures.

Contact our experts for an informal chat if you have questions about electronic signatures, or about Legalesign software.

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