Jun 18 2010
It’s a process eerily reminiscent of the Stone Age (e.g. 1998), and it goes a lil’ something like this: Mike secures yet another offensively lucrative writing engagement. He modifies his templatized contract and either e-mails or faxes it over to his breathless client. The client signs it, old-school, and e-mails it or faxes it back. Mike saves it in the bowels of his laptop and then goes to karate class.
Three months later, while preparing for small claims court with said client, Mike tries to dig up the contract. (His lawyer, a public defendant-type, is hapless: frazzled hair, overflowing briefcase, stained khakis – straight out of central casting.) But mike should cast stones – for some reason, can’t find the contract. It’s gone, man! Contemplating matters, Mike realizes this whole sordid ordeal has been riddled with human errors and manual mishaps. It is, in fact, “eerily reminiscent of the Stone Age (e.g. 1998),” Mike muses. “Shouldn’t this process be, like, digital or something?”
If I could talk to myself in this context, I’d say, “Yes, this process can be digital, and there’s this start-up called SignatureConfirm that does it very, very well. And ditch the lawyer while you’re at it.”
SignatureConfirm is an end-to-end digital contract management service. That is to say, it allows you to sign contracts online. It’s simple: create a contract, send it, have the recipient approve it via digital signature, get it back, and, when their lawyers come a’ knocking, easily access it with their nifty search tools and/or flee to Central America. So I went in there and did my thing.
I signed up for the free plan (there are others, here.) Once signed in, I could choose from my Dashboard, Account, Profile, Preferences, or Tutorials. Since I was starting from scratch, I clicked on “New Contract” to get the ball rolling. I named my agreement and then simply pasted in the verbage from Word (see screen shot.) I added recipients and previewed it. Then I sent it. My dashboard also showed me contracts that are drafts, unsigned, overdue, and archived. Pretty cool. The whole process was shockingly simple, and the interface was clean and intuitive.
SignatureConfirm deftly anticipates any practical or legal questions you may have in their FAQ. For starters, they address the issue of electronic signatures. The future is now, and they are quickly becoming a legal form of agreement in many states, but as always, check with your lawyers first.*
Secondly, I wondered, “Oooh, ooh, does Digital Confirm has templatized contracts I can pull of the shelf?” The answer, for now, is a very justifiable, “not yet.” Providing contracts themselves would make SignatureConfirm potentially legally liable, and as much as the idea of an even more litigious world fills me with starry-eyed glee, I’d rather not have them get sued to oblivion. They seem like nice dudes. (Maybe down the line they could partner with, say, LegalZoom – they provide contracts, and more importantly, they were founded by one of OJ Simpson’s Dream Team lawyers. I can see it now: “If the contract doesn’t fit in a template, you must litigate.”**)
All that said, once you do have a contract you and your legal counsel can live with, you can simply re-use it using their “Clone this Agreement” tool. For users with minimal fluctuations to their business agreements, this functionality is really all you need. (And their tutorials are nice too.) All in all, fast, simple, efficient, and pretty unique – I am unaware of a similar service.
Well, I’d like to wrap up this feature now. But first, you may be wondering how future-state Mike fared is his small-claims court battle against a disgruntled former client. Without SignatureConfirm, he never did find that contract. Mike fired his lawyer too, although he did end up getting some, let’s say, “creative” advice from some freelance “associate”-types working at the fish market back in Jersey. Ultimately, he made the former client an “offer he couldn’t refuse,” and wouldn’t you know it, everything turned out just dandy. Capice?
* I had to check with SlapStart’s lawyers to make sure it was ok to say “check with your lawyers.” They said it was fine.
** A riff on the “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” thing, of course.