What is an ‘enhanced contract’ and why should you use it?

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In this article, Alf’s experts offer an overview of the benefits of new technologies to augment your contracts and make them easier to enforce. Whether you are a legal professional or a company manager, if you want to boost your business, we invite you to take a close look at what these new tools can do for you.

Concluded between two or more parties to bind them by obligations and commitments, the contract is a legal document invested with a certain sacrality. Until very recently, it was a paper document produced in duplicate, printed and signed by hand by the contracting parties, who could even need to travel to sign it in person in order to formalise the agreement.

However, with the advent of new technologies applied to service activities over the last two decades and, more recently, the development of legal tech, the traditional paper contract and face-to-face signing sessions in meeting rooms no longer make much sense – at least for smaller contracts.

Legal departments, accountancy firms, notary offices and company managers are now offering their clients new types of contracts, signed online, automatically completed from a database updated in real time, commented on and followed up online and shared with the relevant contacts, all without having to send a single email.

It’s a new era, that of ‘enhanced contracts’.

How do these enhanced contracts work? What are their benefits and how can they make your business more efficient?

Reliability, speed, savings: the advantages of digitization

Since March 2000, the law (in France, at least) has provided that an electronic signature has the same legal value as a handwritten signature. This is true provided that the process used to identify the signatory is reliable and guarantees the link with the act concerned. The electronic signature is thus based on an electronic contract which allows the integrity of the document and its signature to be verified.

Confidentiality agreements, estimates, contracts, agreements, invoices: opting for an electronic signature means saving various costs (travel, printing, mail, etc.) and gaining in speed since the contract can be signed from any location with just a few clicks.

The electronic signature meets the current challenges of mobility and environmental protection in an international context.

The efficiency of the electronic signature over the handwritten signature

The electronic signature has many advantages. In fact, it is considered by some to be superior to the handwritten signature insofar as it is based on a secure computer protocol at a single point in time. Consequently, the electronic signature is unalterable, forgery-proof and non-reusable.

On the signatory side, several options can be proposed to authenticate one’s identity, which brings a certain flexibility to the process.

Electronic signatures are not only applicable to administrative and legal documents. They can be used to secure email exchanges, pay invoices, access sites, respond to calls for tender, etc.

As proof of the effectiveness of these enhanced contracts, most of today’s key players, whether in the insurance, banking or training sectors, systematically offer their customers the option of signing documents electronically. And many startups use services that offer electronic signatures. For their part, legal tech solutions are now including these tools as APIs in their platforms to facilitate direct access.

Other services?

Now indispensable, the electronic signature has also inspired many other useful services for the generation and conclusion of a contract, as well as its execution.

A contract is a project in itself: you have to identify the parties, the right signatories, determine the elements of the contract; its drafting is often the subject of bitter exchanges between the interlocutors; and finally, its execution requires attention, exchanges, clarifications to temper certain provisions; and finally, it ends.

All these steps are now closely examined by all legal tech entrepreneurs in order to simplify these processes and facilitate the follow-up work that a contract requires.

At Alf we carefully select the tools our clients need to facilitate their workflows. For example, we connect public databases for easier and quicker verification of a company’s official information, such as adding a real time check of the BODACC to ensure that the co-contractor is not already in bankruptcy. We also integrate business tools such as access via the same interface to an electronic signature tool (Docusign, for example), an online payment system (Stripe), document storage in an electronic safe (CDC) or to share documents and instructions with your contacts as the ‘life of the contract’ progresses, etc. Finally, everything is stored securely and you will never have to rename it again, as you benefit from a personalised naming policy applied to all of your documents.

New uses of enhanced contracts and the prospects of blockchain

Enhanced contracts offer some very interesting additional uses for legal professionals. For example, you can receive automatic alerts for clients who have not signed the expected documents on time. Or you can choose to automate the workflows for sending documents to be signed for a more complex contractual procedure, a process known as “cascading”. The proposed solutions are connected and therefore integrate with the tools you already use, whether they are cloud services or a commercial CRM. This gives you an overview and automates your processes.

Thanks to APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), it is possible to build tailor-made enhanced contracts by integrating a signature module into the documents. For the real estate sector, these solutions are particularly interesting. And the future, without doubt, of some legal tech lies in the use of blockchain. This decentralised technology makes it possible to authenticate each document and keep track of all transactions without going through a third party. We’ll see you in a year or two to assess the progress made in this area.

In conclusion, today paper documents signed in the presence of the involved parties are only used in very specific cases, often relating to notarial acts. The electronic signature, reliable and unforgeable, allows you to save money, act more serenely, and conclude your agreements without the old constraints of time or place. Do not hesitate to adopt it, and to examine other possible advantages of these enhanced contracts for your legal activity, for example through the creation of tailor-made signature modules to be added to your document templates or the automation of your internal workflows.

For our part, Alf integrates reference functionalities and business tools to enable you to sign and monitor your documents and contracts in a single interface. You can create your enhanced contracts on Alf and connect all the useful tools as easily as building a Lego set, following your needs and respecting your professional know-how. We have entered the era of augmented legal relationships – come along with us!

A lawyer for 20 years with international law firms and worldwide companies (Canal+, PwC Legal, Nomos, Amazon), I’ve had the experience on the inside: too much time wasted on regularly monitoring recurring tasks linked to files, with low added value. Alf, the first workflow automation platform for the legal files, was designed and developed to respond to this critical problem. Customizable, collaborative and accessible in all languages, Alf is also part of a GreenTech approach that encourages responsible innovation by reducing your carbon emissions. — Sabine Zylberbogen, Registered lawyer and Founder