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Classification of Law

Common Law

Common law systems originated in the Middle Ages in England, and while dependent on a system of written laws, place greater emphasis on legal precedent and court decisions to interpret how a law should be enforced. Common law countries place greater importance on evidence and the history of similar situations, based on the principle that facts and interpretation should be treated consistently over time. Common Law countries cover more than 30% of the world, including most of North America, the U.K., parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and most Commonwealth countries.

eSignature Legality Summary

The adoption of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) in most states and the passage of Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) at the federal level in 2000, solidified the legal landscape for use of electronic records and electronic signatures in commerce. Both ESIGN and UETA establish that electronic records and signatures carry the same weight and legal effect as traditional paper documents and handwritten signatures, stating that a document or signature cannot be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form. The Federal Rules of Evidence and the Uniform Rules of Evidence generally allow for electronic records and their reproductions to be admissible into evidence. This applies to electronic signatures stored in a computer or server, so that any printout or output readable by sight, shown to reflect the data accurately, is considered an original. In the case of an electronic signature, then, it is important to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the courts that the appropriate level and amount of information surrounding the signing process was retained, and that the system used to retain the information is itself reliable.

Use Cases That Are Not Typically Appropriate for Electronic Signatures or Digital Transaction Management

Use cases that are specifically barred from digital or electronic processes or that include explicit requirements, such as handwritten (e.g. wet ink) signatures or formal notarial process that are not usually compatible with electronic signatures or digital transaction management.

  • Wills, codicils, and testamentary trusts
  • Adoption, divorce agreements
  • Court orders or notices, or official court documents
  • Contracts or Documents governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”)
  • Notices of default, acceleration, repossession, foreclosure, or eviction regarding primary residence
  • Termination of health or life insurance benefits
  • Health or safety recall or material failure notices of a product
  • Documentation for transportation or handling of hazardous or toxic materials

Local Technology Standards

As part of the United States' “Open” technology-neutral approach to electronic signature, there are no federal laws requiring the use of specific technology for a legally enforceable electronic signature, either for digital certificates or otherwise. Some states have local requirements for state-approved digital certificates for use when transacting with that state government's institutions. Use of and enforcement of these requirements is either low or unclear, depending on the state.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is for general information purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws governing electronic signature may change quickly, so DocuSign cannot guarantee that all the information on this site is current or correct. Should you have specific legal questions about any of the information on this site, you should consult with a licensed attorney in your area.

Last updated: November 01, 2019