Making a Useful Signature Stamp

At PDF for Lawyers, Ernie the Attorney provides a great tutorital on creating a digital signature in Adobe Acrobat. The problem with using a digital signature in Acrobat is that most people don’t understand them. In addtion to your name, the digital signature contains other information that verifies that you signed the document and that it has not been changed since.

Ernie explains:

A signature, digital or not, has to satisfy two elements: (1) non-repudiability, and (2) acceptance by the receiving party.  In other words, the point of signing a document is so the recipient knows it’s from you, and that you can’t deny it’s from you (i.e. you can’t repudiate authorship of the document).  Digital signatures are far superior to regular signatures in this arena.  Where they fail miserably is in the ‘acceptance’ part.
Because digital signatures are not familiar to most people they freak out if they see a bunch of numbers where they’re used to seeing indecipherable human scrawl.  So, how to remedy this problem?
The quick and dirty fix is to do what I outline in that blurb I mentioned a few sentences ago. Just create a stamp and slap that on the document you want to ‘sign.’  It won’t be secure like a real digital signature (and if you want to repudiate it you can say your secretary exceeded her authority and stamped it without your knowledge).  But, let’s say you’re a fair-minded, by-the-rules kind of guy (or gal).  Is there another option?

Fortunately Ernie has solved this problem. Simply go to his post and follow his few simple steps to create a digital signature with an appearance that won’t freak people out.

A Primer on Electronic Signatures

TechnoEsq has a great post in which he discusses the methods of signing electronic documents. As he explains:

Contracts are now signed electronically, emails are frequently used for communication between counsel and clients, pleadings in federal court are even electronically signed and filed. Obviously, such a paradigm shift is necessary in the modern era and makes today’s world work, from ATM and credit card purchases to purchasing automobile insurance online. From a legal perspective, however, there are many different forms of electronic signatures. The term is used interchangeably to describe three very distinct means of signing a document electronically:

1. Signature Stamp (or scanned version of a signature)

2. Electronic Signature (used in the federal court system)

3. Digital Signature (encryption used to authenticate a document).

This article explains the three forms of electronic signatures and assist in their creation.

I urge you to review this article to find out the uses for each of these three types of signatures as well as how to create and use each of them.

Creating a Digital Signature

I know that I have written before about creating a digital signature. (Just to clarify, by digital signature, in this instance I am talking about a digital picture of your physical signature.)

Ernie Svenson recently announced that he was putting on a CLE seminar on digital workflow. As Ernie explained at the time:

In the past two years I’ve given several presentations on ‘Digital Workflow,’ or how to make your law practice less dependent on paper. Whenever I give this talk the room is always packed with people who want to know the step-by-step process of becoming more digital.

About six months ago Dane Ciolino and I were tapped to give this presentation together, which was great because, over the years, Dane and I have often had lunch together to talk about our ‘paperless law practices’ and share ideas on how to make things better. So presenting together was a lot of fun for us, and (from the feedback we got) entertaining and informative for the audience.

* * *

It occurred to us that there’s a big demand for this kind of information, and it’s not really being presented very often around Louisiana. So, we decided to take the bull by the horns and put on our own CLE Seminar. The idea is to create a group of basic, intermediate, and advanced sessions. And to present them on a fairly regular basis. We’re going to start with a 3 hour session on December 12th, in the morning. For more information, and to register for the seminar, click here.

Since then, they have added several useful pages to their CLE website, including a page on the IRS requirements for keeping records electronically and basics on scanning. The page that caught my eye, however, was on digital signatures.

That page has a PDF download that explains how to create a digital signature as well as how to “flatten” your PDF so that the siganture is not easily removed. The page also includes javascript code that allows yout to add the flatten command to your Acrobat menus.

This is a great resource and I urge you to check it also. Also, if you are anywhere near where Ernie is giving one of his presentations, I would suggest that you attend that as well, if at all possible.