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Utah Decision on Electronic Signatures and Elections

The Utah Supreme Court this week held that electronic signatures gathered through a web site were valid signatures for the purpose of nominating a person to run for elected office: Anderson v Bell 2010 UT 47 June 22, 2010.

To run for governor in Utah, one needs a nomination document signed by one thousand people. The would-be candidate submitted a nomination form with a combination of hand-written and electronic signatures, the latter appearing on the form only as a list of typewritten names. The state election authority refused to accept the electronic signatures, thus reducing the number of signatures to . . . [more]

Posted in: Substantive Law: Foreign Law, ulc_ecomm_list

Any Case Law on E-Signatures in Canada?

One of the big issues that Canada’s e-commerce / e-transactions / etc. legislation in the past decade was intended to resolve was the legal status of electronic signatures. At least that was the popular impression. A lot of people (not necessarily lawyers) referred to the legislation as ‘the e-signature bill’. (The Law Commission of England and Wales concluded that no legislation was needed to make e-signature valid in that country / those countries, however, and I suspect that conclusion was valid here too.)

Have there been any cases in any jurisdiction in Canada on the legal status of electronic signatures . . . [more]

Posted in: Substantive Law, ulc_ecomm_list

Electronic Signatures

Two cases, one fairly recent, that address the issue of whether a name within an email might constitute a signature for the purposes of forming an enforceable contract: Mehta v J Pereira Fernandes SA [2006] EWHC 813 (Ch) and SM Integrated Transware v Schenker Singapore, [2005] SGHC 58.

The Singaporean case is found on LawNet, to which I don’t have a subscription.

The English court said that the sender’s automatically inserted email address did not constitute a signature, not being intended as one, but “if a party or a party’s agent sending an e mail types his or her . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous

An Emerging Ministers of Justice Movement

Since April, we have been calling for justice leaders of the world to get out of their national cubby holes and come together to share fears, failures, successes, and strategies, just like public health minister are doing. The COVID-19 crisis is too big and too unprecedented to deal with on your own national level. On 20 October, 22 ministers of justice did just that at the Justice for All in a Global Emergency meeting convened by Minister of Justice of Canada, David Lametti (see end for participants). It was a significant moment. For 90 minutes, they shared their experiences in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Ten Years of Technology Columns

My most recent column for Slaw.ca, Mutual Recognition of Methods of Authentication, completed ten full years of bimonthly columns here on any technology topic I chose to write about. This time I will dip into some of the highlights to see if there has been any progress, theoretical, practical or personal, on them. I have also published numerous occasional pieces here over that period and before, usually also on technology.

Technology

My first column, in 2010, was on Robot Law. Some of the concerns discussed there – such as the capacity of robots to have an autonomous legal . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

What I Learned About Innovation From Learning How to Code

I recently completed Harvard’s CS50: Introduction to Computer Science, offered online though edX. Given my role as a Legal Tech and Innovation Specialist, I work with a lot of technology. Gaining a deeper understanding of computer science seemed like an enjoyable side-project. I was partially correct.

(Sample code from one of my projects)

While learning about concepts like data structures, memory, and arrays is incredibly helpful, I was not prepared for how challenging it would be to apply these concepts into workable programs. Things that programmers can do without effort took me hours: iterating across a linked list of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Mutual Recognition of Methods of Authentication

This essay examines an international dimension of trust in electronic commerce: how to give legal recognition in one country to electronic documents from another. Recognition involves attributing legal status to electronic messages exchanged across borders. The usual phrase is “mutual recognition”. Mutual recognition means reciprocal recognition: A recognizes B’s e-documents because B recognizes A’s.

It is not logically necessary for cross-border recognition to be mutual. A could recognize B’s reliability standards and thus give effect to its documents even if B does not return the favour. However, in practice it is likely that a country that accepts another country’s standards . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Redesigning the Legal System: Let’s Start With What It Takes to Achieve Justice

There have been for years many outspoken proponents of using increased advanced technology in the legal system: use of technology by lawyers, remote court and tribunal hearings, increasing accessibility of information — substantive and navigational — for users of the legal system, and making decision-making systematic through algorithms. In certain respects, using technology has proceeded apace (providing online information, for example), but in others, it has been slow (for instance, court proceedings). Two of the major reasons for heralding increased use of technology are that it makes the legal system more efficient and that it responds to the needs of . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Technology

Pandemic Emphasizes Paperless Roadblocks

I’ve been a fan of paperless and virtual documents and signatures for a long time. Despite the advantages, many steadfastly stick to paper. Many are moving online, but are only part way there.

The transition to paperless and electronic signatures is not always easy, and there are roadblocks that can get in the way. Too often there are one or more steps in a process that require paper or a wet signature that bring things to a halt.

For example, in Ontario we can get articles to create new corporations online, but to amend or amalgamate, we need 2 original . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law, Technology

The LSO Technology Guideline: Considering the Ethics of It All

In the fall of 2019, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada amended their Model Code of Professional Conduct to incorporate reference to the use of technology in section 3.1-2 of the Model Code, which addresses competence. The Law Society of Ontario has provided the profession with a “guideline” in the use of technology, which in some cases refers to the Rules of Professional Conduct, but it is not itself a rule of professional conduct. It constitutes, in effect, desirable behaviour but, with some exceptions, not required conduct. As does legal practice generally, however, the use of technology requires ethical . . . [more]

Posted in: Technology

Trade Agreements to Promote Electronic Commerce III

A couple of times in the past three years, we have looked at the use of free trade agreements to promote the reform or harmonization of the law on electronic commerce. The first article considered the general question of how these agreements are negotiated and suggested that they may not be the best vehicle for reforming technical commercial law. The people at the negotiating meetings tend to be economists, not lawyers, and negotiations may involve trading off provisions that are not readily severable without damage to the principles of the remaining law. A stronger role is needed for commercial and . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Making Mischief With Open-Source Legal Tech: Radiant Law

Alex Hamilton is smiling on his couch in London, chatting with me over Skype. It’s early here in Alberta, late afternoon there. He takes a draw from what looks like a vape pen and grins widely, his eyes raised toward the ceiling. He looks back at the camera on his laptop.

“I think we can make some mischief,” he says with a twinkle in his eyes.

Hamilton is the CEO of Radiant Law, a “NewLaw” firm with offices in London, England and Cape Town, South Africa. In Canada, they have a partnership to Conduit Law called ConRad. Radiant

. . . [more]
Posted in: Technology