artificial intelligence

To what extent will artificial intelligence and machine learning impact the process of transferring title in England and Wales?

Today’s Conveyancer recently held an essay competition in conjunction with the University of Law focusing on the question, “To what extent will artificial intelligence and machine learning impact the process of transferring title in England and Wales? The competition was won by Nicholas Royds, a student at the University. Below is his prize-winning entry.

Fast-changing positions in the transfer of title

Over the last 30 years, the development of the online land registry has demonstrated the technological adaptability of land registration, with nearly 90% of land now being registered.

Similarly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning is developing with increasing influence over the legal sector each year as firms look to save on costs by using advanced technology to make a solicitor’s tasks faster and cheaper.[1] AI could change the transfer of title from two distinct points.

First, there will be a decrease in the time taken to complete administrative tasks. Second, complaints for mistakes and delays, from which property solicitors have been particularly subject to, will be minimised, as more successful transfers take place. There is certainly set to be scope and appetite to utilise AI in the UK, opening the door for reform. However, it should not automatically be assumed that AI will have an instant revolutionary impact, with neither the Law Commission or law firms pushing for radical change to the current process.

Time-efficient solicitors

Currently, the process of transferring title is often limited by the nature of land being purchased. Solicitors spend great time analysing title deeds and documents across multiple registers in order to understand the land on which they are working.

Juro CEO Richard Mabey believes that AI technology can reduce the burden of process work on lawyers by automating the “cookie-cutter” kind of work that lawyers currently have to do. This is set to ensure that, not only are solicitors able to use time efficiently, but also the role of  legal assistants and paralegals will be developed, enabling them to assist solicitors more quickly, with faster research and organisation. Despite the necessity of taking time to train staff in digital literacy for using AI, it is evident that as the practice becomes set into the nature of a firm’s practice, the overall time efficiency benefit will far outweigh the additional time and expense needed to develop training.[2]

Cutting out the mistakes and delays

The Law Society has shown that residential conveyancing remains the legal practice with by far the highest number of complaints, accounting for 25% of all complaints to the Legal Ombudsman. Meanwhile, the largest source of complaints is failure or delay to progress.

Evidently, conveyancing would be able to benefit greatly from the availability of AI and machine learning to minimise mistakes and speed up their work to avoid delay. AI would be able to bring together the totality of what it has learnt about a transaction to find and consider discrepancies in documentation.

It has been claimed by Andrew Lloyd, managing director of Search Acumen that their “algorithms scour through the large address files and cross references them against over 30 million UK postal addresses, patching up any errors and flagging inconsistencies for further analysis”.[3] This would enable solicitors to find and correct mistakes further in advance and reduce the risk of delay or a failed completion, leading to fewer complaints and greater productivity from each employee.

British AI enthusiasm

The UK government’s current stance on AI regulation proposes an innovation-friendly and flexible approach to regulation to AI, most notably confirming within the national AI strategy that AI in Britain will be used with “clear rules, applied ethical principles, and a pro-innovation regulatory environment”. This suggests the UK may be on course for a weaker set of regulations to embrace the developments of AI, when compared to the more risk averse approach taken by the EU.

Similarly, the SRA have outlined their support for an AI regulation regime that is “supportive of innovation, competition, and growth”. Meanwhile, Labour’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer has also addressed his party on “leading the world in artificial intelligence”. When taken together, it is evident that the UK is highly likely to resist strong regulation on artificial intelligence, opening the door for reform. A limited regulatory environment on AI would be able to maximise its use, and could provide bigger changes to registration of title in the UK than elsewhere in Europe.

Limitations to the change

Change may not be revolutionary, however, as the developments brought by AI appear to be limited to speeding up the process and making it more efficient. The Law Commission as recently as 2016 noted not considering wholesale reform to registration to title via the land registry in light of new technology. This has developed the conclusion that conveyancers will continue to utilise technology on the basis that they are tools to create and enable greater efficiency for the conveyancer rather than replace the conveyancer or to overturn the current process in transfer of title.

Similarly, the failure of the “veyo” initiative pushed by the Law Society is testament to the fact that the industry will not force the use of technology upon itself.[4] The SRA have noted that medium and small firms may not take the gamble on artificial intelligence due to the uncertainty of regulation on use of the technology and the extensive cost of implementation. Conveyancing and the transfer of title often lies with the medium to smaller firms, with many of the fastest transactions being residential property, taken out by individuals, rather than corporations. It should therefore be noted that the changes brought in AI will not be without resistance.


There will be an invertible impact to the process in the transfer of title due to the development of artificial intelligence. The speed and accuracy of transactions will only be improved as systems are automated and will be able to identify discrepancies and automate administrative tasks. This, however, should not be used to overstate the foreseeable changes that artificial intelligence may bring, as there is little evidence to suggest that a wholesale reform to the process of transferring title is imminent.



[1]  Julie Sobowale, “How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming the Legal Profession,” ABA Journal, posted April 1, 2016

[2] Barron K. Henley, ‘Technology Tools for Real Property and Trusts and Estates Lawyers’ (2018) 32 Prob & Prop 34

[3] Via Search Acumen, “Why Artificial Intelligence (Ai) Could Hold The Key To Revolutionising Legal Work On Uk Property Transactions”

[4] Professor Stewart Brymer OBE Artificial intelligence in conveyancing, , Property Law Bulletin (W Green), Prop. L.B. 2018, 157, 3-5

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