Technology adoption in conveyancing

In a roundtable hosted by SearchFlow that focused on Technology Transformation in Global Real Estate, LegalTech consultant Brian Kennedy considers the future evolution of the property lawyer profession as a result of technology adoption.

Here, Adam Groom from SearchFlow asks four questions about the impact of technology with property transactions.

Adam Groom:

“What observations are you seeing in terms of the take-up of LegalTech in the property transaction process?”

Brian Kennedy:

“There are many key themes on the radar for law firms: AI, collaboration tools, early-stage access to property data, big data and data analytics, contact lifecycle management solutions, no code/low code legal platforms, and blockchain. However, having earlier access to property data and a faster view of critical insights is fundamental. Lawyers are used to a world where collating property information takes significant time and effort.

“The underlying datasets that power property searches rest within key data providers; whether that’s planning, environmental or highways, and called upon when needed. Increasingly, providers such as SearchFlow are looking at harnessing that data and making it available earlier in the due diligence process; developing products that give lawyers and clients earlier insights into site risks or potential complications that would be beneficial to understand before proceeding.”

Adam Groom:

“What are the advantages of this?”

Brian Kennedy:

“This should have a positive impact on bidding cycles and deal times, enabling parties to proactively account for and address issues, no longer discovering them later in the process and having to negotiate last minute solutions. Making information available earlier would also enable lawyers to better prioritise workflows and pick up big issues in good time, which should cut down on abortive deal costs.

“There are wider implications that are also worth considering: perhaps in the future, lawyers may be freed up by finding they have a lighter, more supervisory role as the initial conduit for certain types of information which have been historically associated with the legal due diligence process.

“Tech providers are developing new, insight-oriented products – not just for lawyers, but property developers, investors and other major industry players, who then use them to pre-screen potential sites. This may mean issues typically flagged by lawyers later in the process are considered and negotiated by clients much earlier, potentially before heads of terms are agreed and even before the point that lawyers are instructed. If there is going to be reordering of where work in the legal value chain sits, lawyers will need to consider how best to engage with their clients in the light of those shifts and adjust the delivery of their service offers accordingly.”

Adam Groom:

“How will digitisation shape the property transaction process for lawyers?”

Brian Kennedy:

“To start with, searches will soon start to look less like the paper-style documents or reports you order, but more like a digital portal or dashboard of all the data you need, that is updated in real-time. In that scenario, searches will be live entities with updates automatically flagged, categorised and annotated for lawyers, rather than today’s snapshot of the data collection count at a given moment of time.

“In addition, the more layers of data one has and the earlier you can acquire them in the process, the more you can do to meaningfully assess the information and apply greater context to the deal. Lawyers well appreciate that trying to look at a single title issue in isolation often is not productive. They seek to consider issues in view of other related areas, which can pose real challenges in automating legal due diligence without changing the timeline.

“The more data one has and the closer it gets to looking like a comprehensive title pack, the greater the range of possibilities for applying techniques such as AI to interpret and assess that data; and to do it in a way that starts to resemble the process a human lawyer might follow.

“AI encompasses a whole range of technologies – the two that are particularly relevant for LegalTech are machine learning – those are algorithms that learn from exposure to new data and don’t rely solely on rules-based programming – and Natural Language Processing NLP, which is the ability to derive meaning and context from language or drafting.”

Adam Groom:

“Do you see that legal services will go through a ‘reinvention’ driven by tech adoption?”

Brian Kennedy:

“The future of law will increasingly use multi-disciplinary approaches to reinvent the delivery of legal services, with teams of lawyers, technologists, legal design experts, change management specialists and other disciplines working together to reimagine legal solutions.

“Then there is the challenge often described as the ‘productisation of law’. How does one turn one-off legal services provided to individual clients into legal products that can be built once but sold to many – and ideally use those products to upsell or stimulate demand for more valuable or strategic legal advice.

“Thirdly, certainly technological developments will open the door for entirely new legal solutions. The industry has so far concentrated on digitising and automating existing legal processes, but I think that will change. Big data techniques and data analytics will offer insights and capabilities facilitating new products and services that don’t resemble any existing legal offering; it will be interesting to see how things unfold.”

This article was submitted to be published by SearchFlow 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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