DCUK launches innovative case tracking system (Topic of the Month – Technology)
Yvonne Hirons is managing director of DCUK (Direct Conveyancing UK), which has just launched E-Plus 247, an on-line case tracking and quotation system that promises to cut out the panel manager in the relationship between solicitor and estate agent.
Yvonne, who has worked in panel management for 12 years, tells Today’s Conveyancer why she believes in E-Plus 247 — even if it does conflict with her core business!
What is E-Plus 247?
"E-Plus is a quotations and referrals system — an interactive piece of technology which enables law firms to promote themselves locally and nationally, securing existing business relationships whilst opening doors to new opportunities. It provides law firms with technology that will make them less dependent upon third parties and creates an interactive work space between them and their introducers — direct. And this should bring balance back to the conveyancing market, driving up solicitors’ revenues and levels of service.
"On the technical side, integration has been at the forefront of building E-Plus, so it complements a law firm’s existing case management system and there’s no double keying of data.
"For law firms that don’t have CM systems, E-Plus is brilliant, with its traffic light reporting; management information; key stage/case note tracking and staff performance functions to name but a few."
When did it launch?
"It launched five months ago. It’s been a soft launch — people have found out about it more quickly through word of mouth than I’ve had time to properly show it off to the market!
"E-Plus has been of particular interest to search companies which are competing against other search companies offering quotation and referral platforms, giving them an edge in the market place.
"By search companies offering E-Plus to their client base, they are arming their law firms with technology enabling them to be more independent, more able to gain work themselves and, obviously, order more searches through them.
"All the interest from search companies has been brilliant as they have sales forces which have been marketing the product for me — and getting a brilliant response.
"And whilst of course yes, this is a business, I feel that I’m actually doing something that’s good as well. I speak to lawyers and they say: ‘Wow. Thank God — a product that’s actually going to help us at last.’
"And that’s rewarding."
Why is E-Plus 247 so useful to conveyancing solicitors?
"Law firms have had a lot of control taken away from them by the panel management companies. Where solicitors are notoriously bad at marketing and technology the panel managers are good at it. They know how to go out and win work.
"As most law firms didn’t have marketing departments, the panel managers built online tracking systems which allowed estate agents and mortgage brokers to monitor the progress of a conveyancing file, meaning the agents didn’t have to ring constantly asking the same questions: ‘Where’s the case up to? Have the vendor’s solicitors sent contract papers?’
"That was 14 years ago and the situation hasn’t really changed. Solicitors still haven’t got to grips with technology — with the recession hitting, there just wasn’t the opportunity or the money. Many are now losing the will to live, thanks to the pressures of processing high volumes at low cost.
"And that’s where E-Plus 247 empowers solicitors — it cuts out the panel manager and gives them back control and increases their revenue. There’s no third party in the middle so it marks a return to the old days of estate agent and solicitor having a direct relationship."
Why do you think law firms were slow to pick up on technology?
"It’s a different mindset — technology isn’t their thing — and the infrastructure isn’t there. Technology frightens the life out of most solicitors. And there are so many other pressures on them at the moment. There are the money laundering, CQS and compliance issues not to mention the need to complete cases as quickly as possible.
"Law firms have had to maintain all this and more whilst managing and protecting existing business and trying to grow market share. They have found it difficult to come up for air and, when they have, the reality of the third parties taking over has hit!"
How did you get into this industry Yvonne?
"At the age of 25, I was probably one of the first ever marketing managers of a law firm — this is going back 15 years ago. I was marketing manager at Barnetts which, for many years, was one of the largest conveyancing firms in the north-west.
"Then, twelve years ago, I decided to set up my own panel management company, branded DCUK — I was very interested in the systems and technology side of the business and I designed my own bespoke panel management software.
"The technology behind E-Plus has evolved from the DCUK software as I believe very strongly that the market is fed up of panel management and is in need of a more direct approach to conveyancing.
"Law firms need help in the form of something that isn’t going to cost the earth but will empower them with the technology to become adept at sales."
You must be proud of it?
"I am — I think it’s quite revolutionary. And it’s very rewarding to hear, for example, that a law firm that registered with E-Plus four months ago is now working with six branches of a local estate agency which they’d been trying to build a relationship with for years without success.
"We’ve also just completed our first integration with a law firm and we are in the process of integrating with many more. It’s really exciting!"
Do you think that, in the future, there won’t be a need for panel management?
"Being honest, I think there will always be a place for panel management. I don’t believe that E-Plus will eliminate it completely but it will certainly bring back balance to the conveyancing market and enable law firms to be less desperate to take on such low cost work when they have their own direct, more profitable work being generated with their own technology."
How many companies do you hope to see using E-Plus by the end of the year?
"I would love to see 40-50 firms registered by the end of the year and, as the market slows in autumn and lawyers have a moment to breathe, I am confident more will sign up. I’m here and ready to get them on their way to a more Independent and profitable 2015!"
To find out more about E-Plus and to find out how it can benefit your business, please contact Yvonne Hirons at [email protected] or call 01704 384000.