Expert Warns Passive Conveyancers Reluctant To Embrace Technological Changes

Technology plays a huge role in the modern home buying and selling process. The majority of home buyers now utilise online property portals in order to peruse available property and assess their options.

From this initial starting point, the consumer is looking for similar new technologies to help make the process safe, efficient and quick.

Following the recent regulatory changes concerning price and service transparency, legal service providers are beginning to improve the way they communicate with the consumer to ensure a smooth service.

Efficiency and communication have been areas where technology has aimed to improve the customer journey; from price calculators and chat bots to online portals allowing the consumer to see the conveyancing journey in real time.

Now, as the cyber threat increases, innovators are increasingly looking for ways to protect the law firm and consumer from financial and reputational attack.

Fraudulent online domains increased by 11% between the end of 2018 and the opening quarter of 2019 according to cyber security experts, Proofpoint. Additionally, lookalike domains increased by a fifth last year with 76% of respondents experiencing at least one detected example of lookalike spoofing.

To put this bombardment of cyber threats into perspective, according to think tank, Parliament Street, who issued a freedom of information request to look at spoofing attacks between 2016 and 2019, HMRC were sent 2,602,528 scam alerts from concerned members of the public that were sent information claiming to be from the Governmental department.

When phishing and spoofing attempts are increasing in number and sophistication, it is becoming increasingly difficult for both organisations and the public to decipher the legitimate source from a potential scammer.

The UK Finance report, ‘Fraud the Facts 2019,’ found that authorised push payment fraud increased by more than 90% from 43,875 attempts made to convince individuals or businesses to part with their money in 2017.

By the end of 2018, as social engineering tactics and impersonation methods became more sophisticated, this number had grown to 84,624; costing £354.3 million. This represents a significant increase from the £236 million extracted in 2017.

Geoff Dunnett, Shieldpay’s Director of legal and professional services, has taken the time to explain how Legaltech, blockchain, AI and a myriad of technology-based solutions are available and being used to protect consumers, improve the customer journey, reduce conveyancing times, improve efficiency and free up legal service providers to complete more complex legal work.

How is technology being used in the conveyancing sector to protect the consumer? 

The use of technology is creeping into each part of the conveyancing process. Split neatly for these purposes into (i) onboarding; (ii) due diligence/matter management; and (iii) completion:

  • Firms are turning to electronic identity providers, selfies, likeliness tests and Open Banking to understand their underlying client and the assets to a degree of certainty and reliability that has not been possible before.
  • Firms reduce the risk of data infringements and phishing scams by offering clients specific portals, requiring them to login securely to receive or share confidential information with their clients.
  • Firms are using well developed post-completion tools for filings with HMRC and HMLR and e-signing (where applicable), ensuring client’s assets are well protected and an ever-increasing number of firms are turning to Third Party Managed Account Services like Shieldpay to help remove the risk of handling their client’s money.
Why is it important for conveyancers to embrace technology and how will it improve their business and enable them to remain compliant?

It’s important for conveyancers to do so to protect themselves, their client’s data and survive the market consolidation.

The sophistication of cybercriminals is on the rise and so is the threat to law firms, who in the most part don’t have the resources internally to be confident that they are protected. The cost and the know-how required to maintain up-to-date systems can become unwieldy for smaller firms, which is why picking the right technology partner is becoming increasingly important for firms of all sizes. The fear around GDPR compliance has passed to a greater extent, but the risk of data breaches is still very relevant. We recently saw British Airways fined £168m for data breaches. The ICO is taking these matters more seriously and firms are at risk.

Adopting new technology is also answering clients’ needs. Clients expect to have services provided to them at their convenience and on their mobiles – we call it the Amazon generation. To meet the expectations of clients, firms need to provide services in the same way. Technology helps, giving firms the impression of being everpresent without being actually available 24/7.

What role can artificial intelligence play in improving things like digital conveyancing or cyber security?

Artificial intelligence, on the one hand, is heralded by some as being the answer to removing the possibility of human error when undertaking discovery and due diligence. On the other, it is feared for being the beginning of the end for the professions and all that being a “lawyer” is.

Artificial intelligence is inevitable and will be a huge part of how professions are set to evolve, but we are not there yet. Using artificial intelligence as a tool to make the provision of services more reliable, secure and cost effective is, without question, the future of the delivery of legal services. How so in conveyancing? I see AI facilitating complex processes such as; enquiries, the reading of freehold and lease documents, and the highlighting of specific covenants or easements to fee earners.

What will remain the lawyers’ craft will be the advice around the impact of these discoveries. What AI is a long way from providing is analysis and advice on the real world or commercial implications of these discoveries, as each matter is so different.

Why is moving to digital conveyancing proving a risk for the sector? Can conveyancers mitigate this risk?

The risk is being passive and failing to embrace the changes.

We have recently seen the rise and partial fall of the digital-only estate agent model. This model sought a race to the bottom on price, and the consequence has been a reduction in the quality of service, which then in turn caused a devaluation of the service that has seriously impacted the industry.

Law firms can protect themselves by providing the best service, rather than the cheapest. These law firms will leverage technology to free up the time of their fee earners to provide the human touch, and help clients through the most important transactions of their lives.

In every aspect, the purchase or sale of a property is a very human and emotional experience. Moving to fully digital conveyancing is still a way off from providing the experience and presence of a lawyer over the phone or in person.


  • test

    50 years ago I worked on the Uk’s first consumer research into conveyancing.

    Consumers frequently demanded greater use of computers to shift information

    Half a century later, it appears that conveyancers are not using technology to the same extent as criminals

    The reserved measures regime is a restrictive practice which does not give compensating consumer benefits

    The Law Commission’s Land Registration Bill contains power for HMLR to require conveyancers to use software

    This will take too long to introduce and put demands on the Registry

    The Government should require that qualified persons must use approved technology now.

    Use should be monitored online with automatic suspension for failure

  • test

    Alternatively: many of today’s problems stem from zealots’ over-eagerness to dispense with the inherent security which proper documentation affords. Examples:
    1. Abolition of Land/Charge Certificates allowing more fraud.
    2. Non-retention of vital items lodged at HMLR. Often, it confesses itself unable to issue a copy. If the original item has been consigned to shredding or is retained by an unknowing firm other than the client’s current firm, there is no other source available.
    3. Inaccuracy of HMLR records, curable only by production of a hard-copy deed.

  • test

    Sadly far too many conveyancing outfits are so caught up with having (or feeling presusred into having) the latest I.T this and that, while overlooking a key ingredient to any I.T – the quality of the person using it. Give bells and whistle I.T to a poorly skilled conveyancer, and you have a poorly skilled conveyancer with redundant bells and whistle I.T.

    Those outfits are being left way behind by law firms who spend their money on recruiting impresisve conveyancers with THE MOST INSTANT I.T – email – who take literally only a few weeks to get deals done, spotting every legal issue and solving them expertly along the way, while conveyancing outfits flounder about with their latest software portals and gibberish gadgets giving impersonal communication to clients, no money for salries, meaningless ticks to agents and missing legal issues in their droves.

    But hey – be sidetracked with having the latest I.T this and that. Meanwhile we will source expert CVs, and like now, our clients will tell everyone they know to use us, record year upon record year.

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