Technology in conveyancing – opportunity or threat?

With so much business now transacted online, law firms are becoming increasingly reliant and dependant on IT led systems. With such high value transactions the conveyancing profession is finding itself under attack from cyber criminals who are targeting the profession. Their methods are wide, varied and most importantly clever; they are obtaining mortgage funds by fraud and, as we have seen in this year’s SRA Risk Outlook, the creation of cloned vendor firms (bogus firms) to steal client’s money is a serious threat.

There is also now an expectation that conveyancers will utilise the range of IT services available to them to safeguard their client’s transaction. Professional negligence claims are on the increase and property solicitors are more likely than any other member of the profession to face a claim. Lack of awareness of the risk management and compliance services that are available in the modern era is not likely to be accepted as a defence when faced with a claim.

So what can conveyancers do to help themselves?

As the conveyancing world changes, it can seem a little daunting. However you don’t need to be particularly IT literate to compete and thrive.

Tony Clarke, Operations Director at Searchpoint explains why it is imperative that firms and conveyancers move with the times:

“Conveyancing is a vibrant and dynamic area of the legal profession. There’s a lot of support and a range of IT based services that conveyancers can call upon to help mitigate risk and protect their clients.

“Being aware of and employing these services shows that you have acted responsibly and with reasonable skill and care. Ignoring technology and the risk management tools that are available for conveyancing solicitors isn’t an option and could be the biggest risk of all.”

Searchpoint’s top tips:

1. Website Security – When using third party websites make sure your client’s information is secure. Two quick ways to test this;

          a. Does the website address begin with https and show a locked padlock before the web address? Yes – this is secure and uses encrypted data making it harder to get into.

          b. Is your Password secure? If you forget your password you should be requested to set a new one, if you can retrieve it then it isn’t secure and can be stolen.

2. Vendor Firm Clones – Lawyer Checker is a commercially available service, with a database which determines whether the account searched against has a track record of successful use within conveyancing. The results of being duped by a bogus law firm could be devastating including removal from lenders panels, stress, distraction and brand damage.

3. Search Alerts – These are widely offered by most online search providers to reveal if an unknown hazard or risk is present. These include planning applications, energy exploration schemes and infrastructure projects. Searchpoint are the leaders in this type of screening, providing you with a report for your client which details which hazards have been checked and the results in a traffic light format.

4. Electronic AML Checks – These are an excellent way to support your Customer Due Diligence and help ensure you are meeting your obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007. As well as matching personal data with recognised and reliable sources such as the Electoral Roll they also provide matches against negative information sources such as mortality databases, PEPs and Sanctions Lists from all over the world.

5. Auto Boundary Mapping –The freehold title boundary that surrounds a property is automatically shown when a case is created. This helps ensure that searches are ordered on the right property. It can also save time when ordering searches as you don’t have to find and attach a boundary plan. Instead you have the option to select the freehold boundary as registered at Land Registry via an interactive map.

Tony Clarke – is Operations Director of Searchpoint, an online search partner. More information can be found at searchpoint.co.uk.

This article was submitted to be published by Searchpoint as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.

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