You are here:
  1. Home
  2. Support services
  3. Advice
  4. Practice notes
  5. Execution of documents by virtual means

Execution of documents by virtual means

16 February 2010
  • R (on the application of Mercury Tax Group and another) v HMRC [2008] EWHC 2721 ( Mercury) has led to discussion about the effectiveness in English law of using:
    • pre-signed signature pages, and
    • virtual signings and closings where signature pages are exchanged by e-mail.
  • This practice note gives suggestions on good practice in light of the Mercury case and suggests different options for virtual signings/closings. The options suggested are not exhaustive as it is not implied that virtual signings and closings cannot or should not be conducted in other ways.
  • It is considered that:
    • the Court of Appeal decision in Koenigsblatt v Sweet [1923] 2 Ch 314 ( Koenigsblatt ) remains the leading authority on the applicability of the principles of authority and ratification to the creation of legally binding written agreements
    • the first instance decision in Mercury should be viewed as limited to its particular facts
    • the decision in Koenigsblatt should prevail where there is inconsistency between the two.
  • This practice note is intended to assist parties who nevertheless wish to take a cautious approach, in the light of Mercury, where it is more convenient to have a virtual signing or closing and wet ink documents are not required for registration.. This is an evolving area of law and you should keep abreast of any relevant developments.

Legal status

This practice note is the Law Society's view of good practice in this area. It is not legal advice.

Practice notes are issued by the Law Society for the use and benefit of its members. They represent the Law Society's view of good practice in a particular area. They are not intended to be the only standard of good practice that solicitors can follow. You are not required to follow them, but doing so will make it easier to account to oversight bodies for your actions.

Practice notes are not legal advice, nor do they necessarily provide a defence to complaints of misconduct or of inadequate professional service. While care has been taken to ensure that they are accurate, up to date and useful, the Law Society will not accept any legal liability in relation to them.

For queries or comments on this practice note contact the Law Society's Practice Advice Service.

SRA Principles

There are ten mandatory principles which apply to all those the SRA regulates and to all aspects of practice. The principles can be found in the SRA Handbook.

The principles apply to solicitors or managers of authorised bodies who are practising from an office outside the UK. They also apply if you are a lawyer-controlled body practising from an office outside the UK.

Terminology

Must - A specific requirement in the Solicitor's Code of Conduct or legislation. You must comply, unless there specific exemptions or defences provided for in the code of conduct or relevant legislation.

Should - Good practice for most situations in the Law Society's view. If you do not follow this, you must be able to justify to oversight bodies why this is appropriate, either for your practice, or in the particular retainer.

May - A non-exhaustive list of options for meeting your obligations. Which option you choose is determined by the risk profile of the individual practice, client or retainer. You must be able to justify why this was an appropriate option to oversight bodies.

The Law Society also provides a full glossary of other terms used throughout this practice note

Sign In or Register

This is premium content

To access premium content login to My Law Society.

Not registered? My Law Society is free and open to all users. Register below.

Not registered?

Registration is free and will only take a couple of minutes.

If you are a member of The Law Society you can use your MySRA account details to register.

Register
Update your contact preferences

Update your details in My Law Society and tell us how you want to hear from us.

Practice Advice Service

The Practice Advice Service provides a dedicated support line for Law Society members and employees of law firms. Call us on 020 7320 5675.

> Contact the Practice Advice Service

Recommended

keys on a chain
Residential property law update 2020

On Monday 1 June 12:30 join us as we discuss recent developments in conveyancing and property law. An Ideal update for the busy conveyancer.

Residential property law update 2020 > More
Lexcel Accreditation
Lexcel

The Law Society's quality mark for any practice that can demonstrate excellence in legal practice management and client care.

Lexcel > More