Confessions of a cyber conveyancer

So there we were, sitting around, eating bonbons, adding features to our case management system, and generally feeling pretty confident with how we were leading the way in conveyancing technology.

When suddenly, last Tuesday, a message popped up at the bottom of the browser on our screens. I can’t remember the words exactly but, roughly translated, it said:

Sort yourselves out. We’ve been threatening this for years. From June, you won’t be able to use your case management system. Lots of love, Satya.

This caught our attention, so we put down our coffee, took our feet off our desks, and had a bit of a chat.

The proof of the pudding

From the day I started the business, we’ve always been web-based. However, due to my paranoid fear that (a) someone was going to steal our documents and (b) we needed super-fast access to them, we always stored our documents on our own servers (or “on-prem” to use the technical term, a minimal abbreviation for “on premises” – not sure it’s worth the effort).

Which meant we had to mesh web-based data and local documents together. If you speak to technologists (yes, those who think there’s value in saving a single syllable in “on-prem”), they’ll give you a sideways look and say “nah – you don’t want to do that, mate” before lecturing you on security.

But here’s the thing: it worked. We have completed over 20,000 transactions using this methodology and it’s never fallen over. In my opinion, the proof of the pudding is most definitely in the eating.

The challenge was that the only browser that enabled us to access local documents is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) with all the others refusing to play ball. There are good reasons for this, as you don’t want websites being able to access user’s machines. But we’re working within a “walled garden” – another glorious technical term for a restricted environment – so we control all access and security, which works.

So who’s Satya and why is he being so mean?

Satya Nadella took over from Bill Gates as CEO of Microsoft and has been credited with transforming the company from being a desktop software supplier to a web services leader – which is a monumental change and makes him someone to be reckoned with.

The reality is that all software has a lifespan and IE uses old technology that is not best suited to the current web environment, which is why they keep displaying the message on our screens that they are retiring it on June 15th.

Which will stop our case management system working. Which, by any stretch of the imagination, is not an ideal situation for us.

Yeah right – but so what?

The thing is, we knew we’d been living on borrowed time with IE. Microsoft had been threatening to scrap it for years, but we figured it was like a cockroach after a nuclear war – it was never going to die. Too many corporations use it for the same reason that we did.

Only this time it’s different and we can’t ignore this.

While Microsoft has promised an IE compatibility mode in their new Edge browser, we cannot be sure this will work, so we will be switching to Chrome before June. We can only do this because we moved our documents to the cloud last year, which was also another consideration for doing that.

But let’s apply my favourite measure to this issue – “so what?”. We’ve been using old technology for years that we knew was obsolete, but we did nothing about it. Until we were forced to.

Which is the entire point.

Switching technology is expensive and painful and people only do it when they have to. After all, if things are working OK, then why change?

After all, despite being technology leaders, we are only changing because we have no option. Law firm owners must be forced to adopt decent technology in conveyancing and we need to find a way to make this happen.

Maybe Satya might be able to help here?

Peter Ambrose is the owner and Managing Director of The Partnership – a boutique legal provider specialising in the delivery of transparent and ultra-efficient conveyancing services.

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