In brief - DocuSign technology revolutionises property sale contracts

The benefits of moving to e-contracts include reducing staff hours spent on contract preparation and administration, saving enormous amounts of paper and other associated costs, and ensuring the documents' safety. However, accepting the inevitability of digitising office processes will require a change in business culture.

DocuSign technology greatly improves efficiency and reduces risk of human error

The Colin Biggers & Paisley property team has slashed costs but dramatically improved the efficiency of its sales contract production, transmission, receipt, storage and archiving processes by digitising its contracts with the DocuSign software platform.

With one of the largest project conveyancing groups in Australia, the property team is responsible for preparing and processing thousands of property sale contracts a year. During high volume conveyancing projects, CBP processes sales of as many as 200 apartments in a day. With contracts averaging around 600 pages, and two copies of every contract required, this has previously resulted in up to 240,000 pages of contract documents being circulated in a single day.

The amount of time and resources required to manage paper contracts during high volume conveyancing projects was staggering. With these enormous volumes of paper, the costs of printing, scanning, filing, archiving and couriers were running into hundreds of dollars per contract.

On top of that, every contract needed to be manually checked and cross-checked by paralegals before and after contracts were entered into. This checking process required hundreds of staff hours and, due to time pressures on staff, there were constant concerns about staff growing tired and missing errors, such as pages being left out or details being overlooked.

Moving to e-contracts managed using DocuSign’s digital transaction management technology means eliminating the need to manually check each page in every document. Instead, once the master contract is set, each contract's front page is checked for correctness.

Purchasers can then read and sign their individual contracts on any internet device, no matter where they are in the world, and soft copies of completed and signed contracts are automatically available to all parties for download.

E-contracts cut staff hours and costs drastically, increase security

This e-contract process has reduced the time our staff spend in preparing contracts and administering them by over 90%. In addition, hard costs of printing, scanning, filing, archiving and couriers are done away with altogether.

But this is not just a cost-cutting exercise. Contract security is paramount for any legal practice. DocuSign technology ensures that a finalised contract is secure and cannot be changed without detection, which makes e-contracts safer than paper.

Shifting our entire conveyancing practice over to the e-contract system will take time, but since our introduction of the DocuSign technology in September last year, e-contracts have been used in the sale of 184 apartments in a single Sydney building, 600 e-contracts in total have so far been entered into, and e-contracts are scheduled to be used in upcoming projects comprising no less than another 2000 apartments in Sydney and Brisbane over the next 12 months.

Paperless offices will become a reality as more businesses accept change

A reluctance to embrace e-contract technology is common in the legal industry. However, with a new generation of clients showing little interest in paper communications, the switch to e-contracts across all practice areas is now a priority.

The ability to go paperless doesn’t differ from practice area to practice area. It’s all about changing an ingrained business culture. Until recent times, legal practices (as with business in general) have been managed by a generation of people who were in high school before decimal currency and matriculated before metric measurements. So it's not surprising that modern streamlining practices have remained at the "development stage" for so long.

The world is now a different place and office process streamlining will surge from here on.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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