Only a couple of years ago, finalizing a multinational deal took a matter of months, and it required an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy spent on printing, faxing, scanning, and overnighting pages upon pages of documents to be signed. The process was only lengthened by every additional individual signature needed.
The San Francisco and Seattle-based company DocuSign is striving to not only eliminate this process entirely, but to do so while also “driving digital transparency,” according to its general counsel and chief legal officer, Reggie Davis.
The company invented an “e-signature solution” that enables users to securely sign and manage documents online from any device. Digital Transaction Management (DTM) is an emerging cloud-based service that isn’t specific to DocuSign, but the very young company has quickly become known for setting its global standard.
“Everything we do is built on legality and security and almost obsessively acting in the best interests of our customers on both fronts.”
DocuSign began as a US enterprise focusing primarily on real-estate business. Now, it has an estimated 55 million users, $500 million in venture funding, and an ever-expanding global footprint, including the 2014 acquisition of the Brazilian digital-signature firm Comprova.
Given that the documents signed through DocuSign are legally binding, the company’s foreign expansion into forty-three languages and 189 countries has created unique challenges for Davis and his team. “The overarching task we’re trying to accomplish is creating a global trust network,” he says. “Everything we do is built on legality and security and almost obsessively acting in the best interests of our customers on both fronts. We’re trying to drive digital transformation for an incredibly varied customer base, the depth and breadth of which is still impressive to me.”
“It is literally across all industries,” Davis says. “We must learn all of the challenges they’re up against and make it our business to address them.”
From start to finish, DocuSign makes legal processes accessible and transparent to all involved. Not only is the process quicker, but information on who created the documents, when they were created, who signed them, and when they were signed is instantly available to all parties involved. The entire transaction history is there, in black and white, and that’s something traditional means like paper can’t offer.
“Not only is it a more transparent way of doing business, but it’s a more secure way of doing business,” Davis says. “This isn’t just for multinational companies, either. Think of the benefits for a legal department or a company’s HR department. If a company has a focus on or a need for compliance, nothing is better than the approach offered by DocuSign.”
Davis’s career history is prolific, with roles as general counsel at both Yahoo and Zynga before his time at DocuSign. In the tech world, moving to a smaller company doesn’t mean a step backward. Davis has the opportunity to be with the company as it’s in the midst of explosive growth: on the brink of an initial public offering and, as of October 2015, entered into a strategic sales partnership with technology giant (and DocuSign investor) Dell.
Davis joined DocuSign after deciding to a take a year off, six months of which were spent backpacking around the globe with his wife and four sons. He was already well accustomed to applying his legal expertise in the tech industry, but the folks at DocuSign weren’t at all accustomed to a general counsel with such a unique approach to addressing risk. Davis only brings a potential issue to the attention of need-to-know parties when it’s, well, attention-worthy.
“Lots of people sue lots of companies for lots of things,” Davis says. “If I think something is a very critical issue, I’ll bring it up. If it doesn’t seem critical to me, I won’t bring it up. If you’re on everyone’s back about every little issue that arises, how do they know when to take a legitimate risk seriously? It’s an approach that works for me. It requires a lot of trust that I know what I’m doing, but DocuSign trusts that I do.”
That’s not to say that being general counsel means knowing everything—it doesn’t, and Davis will be the first to say that. He works among the best and brightest, both on his legal team and within DocuSign broadly. Being an effective general counsel, he says, requires being transparent about what you don’t know.
“It’s a blessing and a curse to be around ultra-smart engineers who don’t suffer fools easily,” Davis says with a laugh. “It’s basically my job to give very smart people advice, and that can be hard when they know things about the technology that I don’t. So much about this job is helping people buy in to your approach and being completely prepared to honestly answer all of their questions. You just have to put in the time and do the work. That’s what being a good general counsel is about.”
Photo by Sam Attal