How Law Firms are Using Remote Online Notarization
Over a billion documents are notarized each year, a significant portion of which—ranging from powers of attorneys and affidavits to wills and deeds—are included as a service by U.S. law firms. Traditionally, notarizations have been done in-person and on-paper which can be time consuming and inefficient. But in recent years that has begun to change, with the acceptance of remote online notarization (RON). Demand for RON is also accelerating as more individuals transition to remote work and state legislatures continue to pass permanent RON laws and regulations.
Now, well established e-signature and audio-visual technologies have enabled the adoption of remote online notarization (RON), which makes it easier and more efficient for law firms to notarize documents and provide their clients with a better digital experience. RON offers multiple benefits, including a better client experience, increased access for signers, reduced administrative costs, consistent and reliable identification, a more complete record of the notarial transaction; and enhanced privacy, security, and coercion safeguards. It also creates a digital audit trail, which helps notaries public and law firms track notarial activity over time to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations.
How law firms are using RON in three distinct practice areas
Law firms in the U.S. can start modernizing their notarization processes today, using remote online notarization. Some of the highest impact practice areas include:
Litigation: In nearly all litigation, an affidavit, which is a written and notarized statement from an individual that is sworn to be true will likely be required to support each party’s filings—allowing the case to proceed. As cases progress, subject to court rules, parties may notarize and file additional documents such as motions and pleadings, which are written requests for the court to make legal rulings. And finally, if the parties reach a settlement agreement, agreeing to a judgment in advance, that document must also be notarized in many cases.
RON solutions eliminate travel, scheduling and other logistical challenges associated with onsite signing for attorneys, who are often faced with strict filing deadlines—to help ensure documents are notarized quickly and accurately.
Estate Planning: Estate planning attorneys, responsible for helping clients manage their assets, will inevitably create one or more documents requiring notarization during the course of their representation. In many cases, a power of attorney, which is a legal document giving one person the power to act on behalf of another person, may need to be notarized to empower someone to make financial or medical decisions on behalf of the client. The distribution of specific assets such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts may also require a notarized beneficiary designation, which is a legal document describing who shall receive an asset owned by an individual upon their death.
Using RON solutions for these, and other documents can simplify a process that estate planning clients often view as long and burdensome.
Real Estate: Legal services related to real estate range from simple two-party residential sales to complex multi-party transactions, and because they involve real-property, state, municipal, and other agencies may require related documents to be notarized. For individuals, closing documents such as a deed, which is a legal document transferring ownership of real property from one person to another, will likely need to be notarized. For business clients, commercial leases which are contracts between the owner of a property and a business tenant for commercial activity may also require notarization.
Law firms offering legal services related to real estate can help their clients more efficiently navigate the sale, lease, or transfer of property using RON solutions—enabling them to execute documents from virtually anywhere.
As remote and electronic client services continue to gain acceptance, we expect the applicability of RON will extend to additional business uses and practice areas as a convenient and secure alternative to traditional in-person notarization.
Introducing DocuSign Notary
With DocuSign Notary, law firms leveraging notaries in supported states can now securely conduct remote online notarizations using digital tools to notarize documents via an encrypted audio-visual session. This helps create a more seamless, convenient experience for your signers, mitigate risk with a robust audit trail and accelerate the speed at which your practice operates.
All of this is built on DocuSign eSignature, making it easy for our customers to send, sign and notarize agreements all within DocuSign. Let’s see how Notary works.