Confessions of a Cyber Conveyancer

Anyone reading this will agree that 2023 hasn’t been exactly what you’d call vintage for property lawyers.  The hangover of recent years combined with a correction in the property market has resulted in understandable negativity, which we know from history tends to lead to people looking for someone to blame.

Depressingly true to historical form, this is what we’re seeing in the residential conveyancing sector.  What makes the current position slightly different is we’re now seeing that instead of estate agents being the usual pantomime villains, some lawyers are turning their ire onto new targets; not-solicitors and those promoting the use of technology.

Unfortunately, addressing this prejudice against not-solicitors is like teenagers trying to challenge grandmothers making racist comments across the Christmas dinner table – it’s not a fight not worth having.  Spaniels barking at the moon springs to mind here.  However, when it comes to people sharing their opinions that the issues we see today are partly caused by the introduction of technology, then this is a conversation worth having.

It’s an age thing, right?

When lawyers are looking to differentiate their services, especially against firms that use technology, I do see them focus on their ability to deliver a “personal” service and explain that the demographics of their client base means that technology is not appropriate – ie. “it’s because they are older”.

The demographics argument sounds plausible, but is easily debunked.  This somewhat patronising approach is based on the concept that older clients want a lawyer who shares their scepticism of technology; “the older generation doesn’t want technology, they want to come into an office and talk with their lawyer”.

The reality is there is no evidence to back this up on a wide scale.  We insist clients use our portal, because, as we saw first-hand, many years ago when one lost £330,000 through a man-in-the-middle fraud, email is demonstrably insecure.  We have around 2000 clients at any one time, every one of which understands how avoiding email reduces risks and have no issue working online.

Secondly, the disappearance of banks and post-offices from our high streets is proof that people do not equate “personal service” with talking to someone face-to-face.  Those who think that people who are happy to use their smart phones for online banking will not use them for buying properties need to form an orderly queue for that ivory tower climb.

It’s really not the clients

One of the main reasons why we see resistance to technology adoption by lawyers is because implementing or changing platforms is expensive, painful and risky.  Historically, much of the software that lawyers use today is limited and offers few benefits for conveyancers.  Let’s face it, when case management systems are used mainly for mailmerge in Word, it’s no wonder people are sceptical.

It also requires firms to allocate resources that take away from fee-earning and that is obviously a challenge.  It’s a simple equation; law firms must focus on revenue generation and implementing case management does take people away from doing this.

Finally, I have seem implementations where users initially have less functionality than previously and this adds to the underlying cynicism about how good technology can revolutionise a business.

Is there any positivity out there?

I was speaking at a conference recently, when, right at the end of an upbeat session, a solicitor in the audience commented that technology couldn’t solve the problem of the quality of lawyers he had to deal with.  He told everyone that this meant he didn’t want to do his job any more, which did rather kill the mood.  I pointed out that having the right technology would actually improve things as it would help him deal with the new reality more effectively.

I said this, because in the last six months I have seen over 750 lawyers register to use a technology that helps them share information more efficiently with other lawyers.  This is because they have seen that the right technology that solves a real problem actually improves the quality of the service they can provide.

Right now, we need everyone to acknowledge that the status quo is unacceptable and there are no conveyancing gods waiting to come down the mountain with tablets of stone to show us the way. If you are doing conveyancing, it’s time to ignore the negative blame-mongers and realise it’s in your hands to make the changes we need.

Let’s make it our mission to embrace more openness and positivity in 2024.

3 responses

  1. ‘This is because they have seen that the right technology that solves a real problem actually improves the quality of the service they can provide.’

    Peter’s own statistics shared on LinkedIn –

    ‘25,042 enquiries have been raised across 1500 matters’

    So an average of around 17 enquiries per matter. Not sure that could be said to be an improvement on the quality of service.

    Technology has its place but to suggest that simply because a lawyer doesn’t like a particular product or does not think it is suitable does not make them a Luddite.

    LMS recently updated their portal and provided a means for lawyers to upload the application details so lenders are able to ‘live’ monitor applications without need to bother the firm.

    Merry Christmas Peter

  2. Oh dear, the “Property Lawyers Action Group” will be cross with this article. All two of them. Hi Colin, hi Stephen 👋🏻

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