Legal technology is transforming the practice of law in ways that were unthinkable ten years ago. The continued introduction of faster, more productive efficiencies may be inevitable, but the pace of change has increased markedly in the last few years. The evolution of technology in the workplace is perhaps the most striking example of how rapidly our professional lives have changed.
The necessity to collaborate efficiently during the pandemic fueled the universal adoption of teleconferencing, work-sharing apps, and an expectation that everyone will be accessible through their own remote device. Most organizations realized that productivity did not decline as they predicted, and many found productivity was boosted. Normalizing remote collaboration required that legal processes be adapted to accommodate the new remote environment.
Just as digital documents, e-filing, videoconferencing, and e-signatures have become staples in every law firm, remote online virtual notary publics are now securely certifying signatures and formalizing sworn legal documents regardless of where the parties are located. Notaries are accessible throughout the country to certify legal instruments 24 hours a day. Requiring all necessary parties to be present in one location to execute a notarized document seems almost quaint in the electronic environment in which we all live in 2023.
Virtual remote notarizing is now authorized by law in 43 states, including Florida, where remote notaries can perform online notarizations for a signatory anywhere in the world as long as the notary is physically located within the state issuing their notary commission. Today, online virtual notary service providers contract with individual notaries throughout the nation to accommodate the needs of counsel handling interstate matters, clients and witnesses living in other time zones, and time-sensitive certifications that would otherwise be delayed by scheduling conflicts.
The list of transactions that can be completed remotely by using a virtual notary is almost limitless. Real estate transactions, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and financial documents can all be notarized remotely. So too can healthcare proxies, custody agreements, witness affidavits, lease agreements, and more.
Security is Paramount
Just as in-person notary public services require a person signing a document to produce valid, official identification, security measures are equally stringent with a virtual notary to ensure the integrity and reliability of the process.
Virtual signature notarization only requires the parties to have access to a strong internet connection. The identity of the person signing verified in advance using biometrics, credential analysis, and knowledge-based authentication (KBA). The audio-video component of the process records the oaths, the questions asked by the notary, the signer displaying their ID and their face to the camera and both the signer and the notary signing electronically. The notary can affix an electronic notary seal.
Notaries providing remote online certifications hold official state commissions and their endorsement on signed documents fully complies with statutory criteria to be admit them into evidence in courts of law.
The advantage of a virtual notary service is hard to overstate. Scheduling an appointment with a virtual notary public to certify a document requires only a few keystrokes. The entire virtual notary process takes no more time than traditional notarizations but eliminates the need to gather the parties together, and eliminates time wasted because of bad weather, traffic, travel delays, parking difficulty, or impossibly long distances between necessary participants.
If you can establish an internet connection and video link, you can execute notarized documents virtually anywhere, at any time of day or night.
In a business environment where time is precious, streamlining administrative functions improves profitability. The use of a virtual notary to certify important documents consumes much less time than preparing for a number of parties to attend an in-person signing process. E-documents are the favored means of formalizing contracts and business relationships; and virtual notarization was the next logical development to facilitate the easy completion of formal signing processes.
Extra time and energy spent obtaining an in-person notarized signature involves added costs to the client. In a competitive market, attorneys using traditional notary services risk losing clients and referrals to firms operating more efficiently and generating lower fees.
The New Standard
Technology continues to advance so quickly that what seemed unlikely only ten years ago is becoming the standard method to notarize and certify legal documents. Law practices that are still using traditional, in-person notary services exclusively need to adapt to the virtual environment or risk being left behind.