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E-signature services like Docusign, HelloSign, esignatures.io, PandaDoc, signNow, etc. all offer services with unique features.

But is there any legal purpose for using them?

For example, one can seemingly accomplish their legal purpose (affixing legally binding electronic signatures to a document) by simply sharing a Google Doc with the parties who then each individually edit that document with their name in a signature block. They can even add a fancy handwriting style font if they wish.

Given that the edit history of the Google Doc is saved for every edit, including the date, time and password-protected identity of the editor. And this edit history is visible to any editor of the Google Doc, including, presumably any future court or arbitrator with whom the document might later be shared, it seems that would achieve everything the e-signature services accomplish at least as well.

So, are they necessary anymore?

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  • The question is about the legal reason, but I'm not sure there was ever a legal reason. Their primary product is convenience of use especially at high volume. You can easily drag and drop signature locations, get automatic email notifications and signers can complete the contract with one click. It has been possible to email a PDF back and forward and add a digital signature for a long time.
    – Tom
    Commented Jan 6, 2023 at 15:31
  • But is that added digital signature considered equivalent to a wet signature of yore? To be clear, a digital signature inside a PDF that has no certification attached from the signing authority or any watermark in the way Adobe puts in a doc(which happens when we trigger a document signing ceremony), and was just a JPEG of a signature pasted in a PDF. Is that legally acceptable? How do we even know the person signing is the person whose signature it is?
    – Khom Nazid
    Commented Apr 4 at 18:01

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Good question.

I'm basically inclined to say no.

But bells and whistles like recording IP addresses user agent strings etc may still help to resolve forensic disputes like trying to disavow signatures because "my computer got hacked."

That's one example offered by docusign, but I'm sure there are other specialized enhancements. Furthermore people like the streamlined workflow that feels more specialized and professional. Purpose built net be the term I'm looking for, but you catch my drift.

In the basic case you describe, I think the answer to the question as you intend it is no.

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