Is regulation stifling innovation for law firms?

When Raconteur published its special ‘Future of Proptech’ report in The Times, I was drawn to an article that was headlined ‘property solicitors must embrace tech’.  The piece, written by Chris Stokel-Walker, focused on the need for conveyancers to “break the shackles of tradition” in order to be able to create a more modernised, digital way of transacting properties.

From our perspective, we work with many hundreds of law firms across the country – from the Top 100 to smaller independent local firms, and the rate of digitisation is certainly varied across the board. Of course, with the onset of the pandemic, the home-working requirement really shone a light on technology and the benefits of operating online with cloud-based solutions.

The article included various views from across the industry – leading with commentary from the MD of Tatewood, an estate agency practice in London.  He made an interesting point that suggested while consumers want things to be completed more quickly, conveyancers believe this creates too much potential for error.

For property lawyers, who are surrounded by regulatory rules and compliance – and ever-increasing professional indemnity insurance premiums – we understand the need to operate faster, but just as importantly, securely and smarter to ensure nothing is missed and that lawyers remain compliant.

The use of AI and machine learning in the conveyancing process is a major piece to help fill the gap.  AI is already having a positive impact on automating tasks, serving information earlier to support lawyers, while also helping to reduce queries.  As an example, several years ago we introduced a smart Auto-Mapping feature to help property lawyers search for and verify address locations, automatically draw boundaries and edit details when ordering search packs, up front, to reduce delays from queries relating to address locations.

We appreciate that due diligence is a complex task and complying with the industry regulations is a must, therefore data-led proptech that reduces the potential for human error or missed information must be embraced in order to evolve the process, reduce risk to lawyers’ PII and create the modern service that consumers now expect – otherwise we run the risk of regulation and unnecessary fear hindering innovation.  So, while I don’t think this will happen, change is inevitable and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we should embrace change. Being agile and open to new approaches has been so important over the last year.  By working together, data, technology and automation can only help to enhance workflows, accelerate transactions, reduce operational costs – and all the while remain compliant.

Written by Dr Tom Quirke, Managing Director at SearchFlow

To read SearchFlow’s opinion article in the Future Of PropTech report, as published by Raconteur, visit here.

 

Dr Tom Quirke is MD at SearchFlow

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