The Practical Lawyer


Electronic signatures – valid?

 A recent HC judgment should strike fear into the hearts of property lawyers. 
Section 2 LP (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 is familiar to all property lawyers and states that a contract for the sale of an interest in land has to be signed by or on behalf of each party. The HC has recently considered a case regarding an automatically generated email signature.

Two parties had a dispute over a right of way, but came to an agreement and then instructed their lawyers. The solicitors agreed in a single email chain to compromise the dispute by the transfer of a small piece of land in consideration of £175,000. Following an exchange of emails, one firm emailed an affirmative reply accepting the offer and this email included a standard signature in the footer: name, job title, name of firm and contact details. The HC had to decide whether a contract had been created and whether the electronically generated signature in the footer constituted a signature for the purposes of s2. The judge concluded that: ‘Looked at objectively, the presence of the name indicates a clear intention to associate oneself with the email – to authenticate it or to sign it… The use of the words “Many thanks” before the footer shows an intention to connect the name with the contents of the email.’

The HC rejected the argument that a ‘signature’ had to be handwritten (whether scanned or inserted electronically). 

Thus, a name automatically added to an email in the footer was a signature for the purposes of satisfying s2. Firms may wish to review their IT procedures and generation of automatic email signatures as a result. Of more relevance is the use of ‘subject to contract’. Practitioners have been more relaxed in their use of this wording at the top of correspondence following the introduction of s2. It is suggested that the use of ‘subject to contract’ on all pre-contract exchanges (whether email or hard copy) is rapidly reintroduced. See Neocleous v Rees [2019] EWHC 2462 (Ch). 

Most-read articles

LPAs – gifts by attorneys
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
Giving attorneys the power under an LPA to make gifts to others and themselves can invalidate it, the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has ruled in a test case. The law limits the power of... Read more...
VAT and disbursements – Law Society guidance
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
The Law Society has issued a detailed new practice note ‘VAT Treatment of Disbursements and Expenses’ (8 October 2019) following two recent cases in which the concept of disbursements has been... Read more...
Socialising with colleagues – a thing of the past?
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
 It is not the role of The Practical Lawyer to judge. But firms would be well advised to re-visit their attitude to lawyers socialising with each other following a recent high-profile case of the... Read more...
Trial bundles – careful preparation required
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
Rather like buses, one waits for judicial comment on court documents and trial bundles, and then two come along at once. An article discusses a recent case in which the court was unimpressed with the... Read more...
Infant approval hearing – top tips
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
An interesting article provides some practical advice on achieving the court’s approval in infant approval hearings. This is a mechanism by which the court considers and, hopefully, approves the... Read more...
Tenant Fees Act 2019 – fully into force
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
We have reported in our March 2019 (p27) and May 2019 (p28) editions on the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act which came into force for new tenancies and licences to occupy on 1 June 2019. The Act... Read more...
CVA – use to reduce rent
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
 If a limited company is insolvent, it can use a CVA to pay creditors over a fixed period. If creditors agree, the limited company can continue trading. The CVA has been used by companies in the... Read more...
Rectification of title – what is ‘exceptional’?
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
The HC has considered whether or not to correct a mistake on a registered title. Under Sch 4 LRA 2002 the court can order rectification but no order may be made without the proprietor’s consent in... Read more...
Paternity – best interests
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
What’s the court’s approach to paternity cases when the issue arises years after the child’s birth, and in circumstances where both child and F always believed F was the biological father, but... Read more...
Religious beliefs – not always protected
Tuesday, 12 November 2019
The ET has heard an interesting case relating to a person’s religious beliefs. The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced... Read more...


IAG International
In House Lawyer
MSI Global Alliance
Join the IBA now!