Today's Conveyancer Podcast

Enquiries: How can we make better sense of the challenge?

This latest Today’s Conveyancer podcast welcomes Chris Harris on to discuss the current state of the conveyancing market and the challenges firms face in harnessing technology to make transactions run smoother. Familiar to many, Chris has been in and around the conveyancing profession for a number of years as a practising solicitor and a panel manager and in 2011 he founded Lawyer Checker before selling to Dye & Durham in 2021. His latest venture is a tool to help conveyancers better deal with enquiries.

Enquiries has been a major issue for conveyancers in recent years, with many taking to social media to highlight the practice of raising lengthy and at times unnecessary enquiries which serve to delay the transaction. Indeed, says Chris, too many times it appears that we delay the transaction more by arguing over who is going to answer the query rather than going to get the answer in the first place. There is, he says, a fundamental lack of collaboration.

And who is driving the increase in enquiries? Is it consumers taking a more active role in their home move and asking more questions about the property (and what role does the estate agent play in answering some of those questions). Or is it conveyancers ensuring they are covering their responsibilities with one eye on PII?

For Chris, AI and automation could be a part of the solution. We are already seeing increasingly useful tools being developed which makes sense of data which is held in a standard format and can be transmitted between firms in a uniform way.

Chris cites examples such auto-report builders and post completion technology which take structured information and present it back to us in a helpful and usable format.

But there are plenty of examples in conveyancing of unstructured data; words on a page without any ability to extract and process individual points.  He points specifically to enquiries where conveyancers will often receive emails raising a list of queries with no way of standardising information contained.

This is where AI and NLP (Natural Language Processing) might have a role to play in reading these emails, identifying the queries and creating task lists; in the fullness of time, these tools will be able to fulfil the enquiry. For example if a buyer’s conveyancer raises an enquiry for a copy of the EPC, automation has the ability to read it, go off and search the EPC Register, and return the result without any intervention, explains Chris.

In a fascinating discussion, Chris explains that we are only just scratching the surface of what AI has the ability to do in conveyancing and warns firms that unless they are embracing the technology coming down the line, they may get left behind.

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