Powering legal workflows with e‑signature technology

How products like Adobe Sign are revolutionizing how lawyers and lawmakers operate, streamline, enhance visibility and security, enable global reach and save on costs.

Today, the state of legal workflows is worlds away from where it was when I began my career, thanks in no small part to the very digital tools we create here at Adobe. Products like Adobe Sign have revolutionized the way lawyers and lawmakers operate, streamlining processes, enhancing visibility and security, and enabling global reach, while also providing cost savings. Using Adobe’s suite of Document Cloud products, our legal team has had the privilege of serving as a sort of in-house customer, experiencing first-hand the necessity of the e-signature technology we tout as the future of legal operations.

First and foremost, expediting processes through digital workflows saves time and resources and eliminates much of the tedious back and forth lawyers used to face in such a document-heavy industry. In the past, getting contracts signed, revolved around the FedEx or UPS overnight delivery cadence — arrival by 10 a.m., pick up at 4 or 5 p.m. — in order to meet deadlines. It could take hours to track down necessary signatories and greatly inconvenience people having to come into the office just to sign a document (think: getting a whole team in on Thanksgiving to sign a deal on deadline, or the one instance when an attorney with a freshly broken leg was required to come in).

Now, e-signatures and automated, smart workflows route digital documents through the right steps, in the right order. Attorneys are no longer tethered to physical limitations like overnight shipping deadlines, and with the Adobe Sign app on our mobile devices, we can access and sign contracts on the go, something that has proven crucial to the functioning of our legal department amidst the global pandemic and remote work. Considering that our Adobe Legal team processes around 10,000 contracts per quarter, it’s a huge advantage to be able to speed up routine agreements so we can more time to focus on higher-level contracts.

E-signature-driven workflows also reduce forced stops and starts, and as a result, dramatically speed up legal processes, which is critical when it comes to things like patents. Protecting our intellectual property is core to our success at Adobe. Avoiding having to wait a month to file because of inefficient processes eliminates putting the company at risk and allows us to earn better rates, which are stronger the earlier you file.

E-signatures also play an important role in our employee onboarding process. All Adobe new hires sign their employment contracts through Adobe Sign, eliminating the costs and resources of back-and-forth shipping of physical documents. It also allows new hires to begin their roles at Adobe more quickly and allows our employment team to keep track of documents and manage onboarding steps more succinctly.

A recent look at the collaboration between our Sales and Legal teams at Adobe shows just how valuable Adobe Sign has been for us internally. Our Legal team created hundreds of pre-approved templates that we can send for signature through Adobe Sign with just a few clicks. And for non-standard legal documents, we can add signature fields to any PDF created in Adobe Acrobat DC nearly as quickly. Many of these templates that we’ve integrated into the Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) system are self-service, meaning that anyone can log into the CLM, fill out necessary information, and send out the agreement without needing further approval from the legal team. For example, anyone at Adobe can distribute a standard non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for any sales meeting or event without needing to take up valuable time working with an attorney.

Enhanced visibility, clarity, and security are also important benefits of e-signatures. Rather than sorting through emails to find the latest attachment, the right e-signature solution allows an attorney to monitor progress and manage and track legal documents in real time. While human review is still a core component of the legal process, e-signatures make it easier for attorneys to confirm the integrity of a document, check the status of the signature workflow, and know who has signed, when, and who’s next.

This increased transparency leads to greater trust in e-signatures, which has helped position Adobe Sign as a viable replacement for handwritten signatures around the world. E-signatures are now legally valid in nearly every industrialized country, which has allowed us to expand our global reach, both in terms of target audiences for sales teams and our own legal team interactions and deal oversight.

Recently, our work with governments around the world has been dramatically impacted by their adoption of e-signatures. While many industries were well on their way to integrating e-signatures as the norm, governments were some of the last remaining users of paper-based processes. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic came the necessity to digitize. This has transformed the way governments work and they aren’t going back.

Additionally, while the global pandemic has eliminated our ability to do many things in person, it’s catalyzed the need for innovations and integration of certain products. For example, Adobe Sign is integrated with Microsoft teams and a “Live Sign” feature, which will be publicly available soon, allowing people to sign something via Adobe Sign while still in the face-to-face virtual meeting. The efficiency, transparency, audit logs — all the benefits of e-signatures — still apply, with an added live human element of an online meeting.

We’re also developing new ways of authenticating identity in Adobe Sign, as well as advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, such as the ability to scan and extract key data from your agreement repositories and “Liquid Mode” for enhanced PDF reading on phone and tablet surfaces. These advancements have positive implications for many areas of the law. And as Adobe continues to innovate, our legal team will continue to be use our own digital tools to drive progress in our company and across the industry.