Profile information Member settings
Sign up Sign in

Sign with RocketSign®

Prepare documents for signature

Sign with RocketSign®

Get started

What is an electronic signature?

The definition of an electronic signature is broader than just the digital version of a physical, written (or ‘manuscript’) signature. 

‘Electronic signature’ refers to a set of data (eg a digitally drawn version of your signature) that is attached to another set of data (eg a PDF document of a contract) for the purpose of signature (ie to form a valid contract or to make another kind of document legally binding, eg a deed). Sets of data that can form an electronic signature include: 

  • typed names at the bottom of emails 

  • Personal Identification Numbers (PINs)

  • biometric data (eg fingerprints or face scans) 

  • data created by clicking buttons on a website (eg a ‘submit order’ button on an e-commerce site)

  • scanned or digitally drawn versions of somebody’s regular, handwritten signature

This last kind of electronic signature (ie an electronic version of a traditional handwritten signature) has become widely used for common documents such as Tenancy agreements and Employment contracts.

Are electronic signatures legally binding?

Electronic signatures are legally recognised in England, Wales, and Scotland. 

Using an electronic signature can replace the use of a handwritten signature in the usual process of signing and executing a contract or document for many types of documents. As with any traditionally signed contract, signatures can become essentially meaningless if duress, undue influence, misrepresentation, or any other issues invalidate the contract itself.

As with traditional signatures, simple contracts (ie contracts that don’t have additional requirements that must be met in order to be valid) do not actually need to be signed to be valid. However, signatures can attest to the importance of a contract and may provide evidence of contractual intention or acceptance of the other party’s terms if a dispute arises. 

For more information, read How to form a valid contract

When can electronic signatures be used?

Electronic signatures can be used to sign most kinds of contracts and documents throughout the UK


A deed (in England and Wales) is a specific type of agreement that must follow particular, enhanced formalities (ie more formalities than are required for a simple contract) in order to be executed correctly (ie to become legally binding). The required formalities vary depending on the type of deed. In Scotland, a deed is not a specific type of document as in England and Wales, but the term generally suggests a document that requires more formalities. 

Deeds can be signed with an electronic signature. However, when signing a deed electronically, you must be sure to meet all of the required formalities (eg those regarding witnessing, which may have to occur in person), else the deed will not be valid. You should check that the formalities for any particular type of deed do not require it to be signed physically. 

For more information on signing and witnessing requirements for deeds, read Execution of deeds.

Documents that cannot be signed electronically

Some specific types of documents cannot be signed with an electronic signature (or at least it’s extremely risky to do so). These include: 

Electronic signatures cannot be used for some purposes

Certain organisations may require that documents used for particular purposes are signed by hand. Before signing a document electronically, check whether any organisations you’re giving the document too will accept electronic signatures and whether they have any particular requirements concerning signatures.

What are the benefits of using electronic signatures?

Signing documents electronically has many benefits, including: 

  • not printing documents is efficient and reduces costs

  • documents can be sent to other parties instantly via email. The other parties can then sign and return documents just as efficiently 

  • not printing documents lessens your negative environmental impact 

  • electronically signed documents can often be stored and accessed securely and easily online

  • the date when an electronic signature was applied to a document can be recorded accurately using online signing platforms, which may assist if any disputes arise regarding the document

You can use Rocket Lawyer’s RocketSign® service to add electronic signatures to documents for free.

Related Guides

Ask a lawyer

Get quick answers from lawyers, easily.
Characters remaining: 600
Rocket Lawyer On Call Solicitors

Try Rocket Lawyer FREE for 7 days

Get legal services you can trust at prices you can afford. As a member you can:

Create, customise, and share unlimited legal documents

RocketSign® your documents quickly and securely

Ask any legal question and get an answer from a lawyer

Have your documents reviewed by a legal pro**

Get legal advice, drafting and dispute resolution HALF OFF* with Rocket Legal+

Your first business and trade mark registrations are FREE* with Rocket Legal+

**Subject to terms and conditions. Document Review not available for members in their free trial.