Face to face completion: a thing of the past?

12th February 2024

Corporate Partner, Helen Mather discusses whether face to face completion will be a thing of the past.

Although they can now be set up in in a few clicks from opposite ends of the globe, it remains human nature to value a face-to-face meeting both in and outside of the business world.

An in-person completion meeting where both sides gather around a table to sign documents, shake hands and ‘complete’ a transaction can be a very rewarding for both the parties and solicitors involved.

Yet, with the continued growth of remote working practices in the post-pandemic world and the ever-increasing need for quick and efficient ways to complete deals, the business and legal sectors have adapted to meet this demand, and electronic signing has arguably been one of the biggest departures from the once established way of doing things.

What does “remote signing” mean?

Previously, remote signing involved hard copy documents being signed in wet ink, scanned in, and emailed to the solicitors who would then exchange their respective client’s documents by email and complete by agreeing to date the documents they hold and then send them to each other by post.

Although electronic signing processes have become more widely used over recent years, wet ink can be preferable in certain circumstances for the degree of comfort it gives each party that the documents were completely and properly signed. Additionally, for some documents such as a lasting power of attorney, it is imperative that the wet ink originals are received by the solicitors.

Any resistance to the broader use of remote signing was nullified by the pandemic, when the inability to attend the office and use vital equipment such as scanners and printers meant solicitors had to adapt quickly and find ways around these obstacles in order to get deals done.

In the wake of this, a number of e-signing platforms grew rapidly in popularity during lockdown and have since proven their use outside of those special circumstances. The key question however is reliability – it must be remembered that the way documents are signed can have an impact on both legal validity and evidential weight. Key considerations for electronic signature are:-

  • Authenticity – whether an electronic document comes from a particular person or other source.
  • Integrity – whether there have been changes to the electronic document after signature.
  • Non-repudiation – certainty that the signatory cannot deny signing the electronic document.

Many corporate documents introduce another consideration which complicates electronic signing: at some point, witnessing of signatures is required in almost every deal. Law Society and Government guidance in respect of witnessing states that, even when a deed is executed by electronic means, the witness must still be physically present; something which can be hard to monitor when using online signature services.

Electronic signature has now become the default option for many solicitors and parties to transactions due to its convenience and speed, however like most step-changes in the legal sphere, its implementation must be considered on an individual transactions basis.

At Kuits, we embrace the convenience that remote completions and electronic signing bring to deal parties but are also more than happy to gather round a table with our clients and the other parties to a transaction to complete a deal where that is what the parties choose to do.

Where virtual completions and signing is necessary or desirable, we can guide you through the process of remote completion and electronic signing.

If you are unsure whether you can “e- sign” your documents or how to deal with a remote completion, please do not hesitate to contact the Kuits Corporate team on 0161 832 3434.

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