In today’s world of digital documents and electronic court filing, a “wet” signature doesn’t mean what it used to.
Now that physical practices are being replaced by electronic ones, an attorney’s physical signature on a legal document is only one of the three possible ways to authorize a file before it is eFiled with the court.
A verifiable link
In traditional legal practice, signatures serve two essential functions:
(1) Creating a verifiable link between the document and the filing party;
(2) Providing verification that the contents have been reviewed and meet certain standards.
While an electronic signature still performs both these, eFiling has changed the need for a verifiable link.
When physical filing was still the only way to submit legal documents, a member of your law firm or the court runner you work with would show up with your papers at the clerk’s window. The only verifiable link between the document and the filing party at that point was the signature.
With eFiling, however, the system you use to submit legal documents requires you to create an account using a login and password that is unique to you. Now that Indiana has statewide integrated eFiling, the eFiling Indiana system is accessible and applicable to all counties in the state.
The information you use syncs with the court’s internal system, creating a direct link between you, the filer, and the documents you’re sending to the court. So, in addition to whatever signature is used, further confirmation exists for the courts that the documents have been submitted by an authorized source.
Verification of review
The second function of a signature is to verify that the contents of the document have been reviewed and meet certain standards, and that need remains. Since legal documents these days may be created without ever being handled as a physical document, it makes less sense to insist on a handwritten signature. But it’s still important to enable confirmation.
So, Indiana Rules of Court, while still requiring a person’s signature, allow filers to sign documents in any of the following ways.
1. A graphic image of a handwritten signature
Use a tool like Adobe Acrobat to create images of your signature and add it to documents right before you’re ready to file.
2. The indicator “/s/” followed by the person’s name
Yes, this method is permitted. Given the aforementioned other verifiable links, the official name of the attorney on record is the equivalent of a handwritten signature as far as the court is concerned.
3. An actual signature on a scanned document
You can always print the document, sign it, and scan it back to your computer. If you choose this method, be sure to check the quality and size, and optimize the PDF before eFiling if necessary.
Check out the Indiana Rules of Court as well as any local requirements for more information on electronic signatures and how to sign legal documents in Indiana.
Some Probate filings or other documents may have more specific requirements for signing digital documents. Check with your local court to confirm the best way to conduct signatures for eFiling in Indiana.