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Digital signatures on Word documents

About six months ago, I was talking to a “seasoned” lawyer about my solo practice. After hearing that I had no secretarial support, he commented that technology has enabled young lawyers to do things cheaply.

It’s true — those of us who are comfortable with the computer can put off hiring other employees. Lawyers who grew up in a world of dictation and typing pools are less able to function completely on their own. Younger lawyers, in most cases, can type for themselves, and can handle most of the formatting issues that accompany letter- or pleading-drafting.

Anything I can do to speed up my secretarial assignments is going give me more time to work. One such time saver is using a digital signature in Word documents. With a digital signature, you won’t have to print a document, sign it and then scan it back in so that your electronic file has a final copy. You can sign the document from your keyboard by pasting a signature directly into the Word document.

From there, you can print that document with the signature ready for mailing or you can save it as a PDF for your electronic file. This is particularly useful when you don’t need a hard copy — for example, if you are going to email the document, or send it out by electronic fax. Here’s how:

  1. Sign your name on a blank piece of paper; scan it in and save it. It will probably be in PDF form, and you need to convert it to something else, like a JPEG or a PNG file. One way to do this is to open it up as a PDF and use the Snapshot tool to select the signature. Then, paste it into Microsoft Paint, and save that on your computer as a JPEG or PNG file.
  2. On the Insert tab, click Picture.
  3. Search for the location of the signature, select it and click Insert.
  4. Resize the signature if necessary.
  5. Right-click the signature, and select Size and Position.
  6. On the Text Wrapping tab, select Behind Text (this way, only the signature itself will show up, and not the white space).
  7. Move the signature to the desired location.

If you sign your name in a color other than black, and if you have a color scanner, it will appear in that color on your documents. Of course, it will print as black-and-white unless you use a color printer.

If you have a paperless office, digital signatures can be used in conjunction with the Print to PDF feature. Instead of printing out hard copies, just save the electronic version and store it on your server or in the cloud. For the occasional letter or pleading, this won’t save much time. Aggregated over the course of a week (I probably sign 30 letters/pleadings per week), it can really add up.

One comment

  1. Hi! Thanks for the help! It all worked out for me. But I was wondering how big should the signature be? Because I mean you don’t want your signature to be too big but you don’t want it to be too small either. What are the recommended dimensions of the signature?