Technology’s Role In Taming The Black Swan

By Carole Marsden, Chief Commercial Officer, poweredbypie

What is a Black Swan?

Finance professor, writer and former Wall Street trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb, wrote about black swan events before the financial crash of 2008.  He suggested such incidents have catastrophic consequences as they are so rare.  Later, he went on to argue that failures can serve to strengthen systems against other future unpredictable events.

This Pandemic has certainly been a black swan, but can it strengthen the legal sector?

As a property search provider, in the weeks of March leading up to lockdown we were on target for a record month.   However, lockdown effectively put the brakes on property market transactions.  As well as the human cost of the pandemic, the disease has already had a significant impact on our economy.  However, our ability to harness technology gives us hope and a way forward for the future.

How did searches take place during lockdown?

Thanks to technology enabling remote working, some property transactions were able to progress during lockdown.  Local Authorities and Water Authorities were quick to accommodate electronic ways of working and must be applauded for this.  For regulated searches Local Authorities were able to offer the provision for data access for searches mainly through email.  Out of the 354 Local Authorities in England and Wales, only a handful (6/7) were not able to provide information by email (physical visits were not an option as offices were closed).  The Water Authorities were able to provide access through secure, password protected systems. In this way, the pandemic may have brought HM Land Registry’s vision of community engagement and collaboration on Digital Street a step closer.

Being able to access and search Local Authority and Water searches digitally, has actually streamlined processes and helped to speed up the conveyancing chain.  Moving forwards, we hope secure digital access to data will be one take away from the pandemic which is here to stay.

What was poweredbypie’s technology’s role?

poweredbypie’s technology is an enabler and has helped our legal conveyancing clients continue to work remotely in a number of ways.  Most importantly it has helped provide much needed additional conveyancing leads from new customers by means of our all-encompassing quoting suite.

The quoting suite comprises of three elements, a website calculator which is integrated onto a law firm’s website, an online quotation tool used by the firm’s team to provide a quote within a click of a button and our introducer tool, which enables a firm’s introducers to provide an instant quote in less than a minute.  Our software helps solicitors convert more enquires, grow their business and set a precedent for excellent customer service from the outset. As you can imagine, this has been invaluable for our clients during this pandemic

 Faye Green, Partner, Head of Residential Property, QualitySolicitors Parkinson Wright – Evesham.

“We use poweredbypie for ordering local regulated searches and also the company’s ‘quoting suite’ which is an intelligent solution allowing customers to obtain quotes for legal work through our website.  In this way, technology has been an invaluable tool to keep lines of communication open during the Lockdown.”

Our new solution Document Portal accessed through our quotation tool, enables simple and secure electronic exchange of all documentation within the conveyancing process.  We launched Document Portal before the Pandemic and for early adopters during lockdown it has already provided an invaluable, secure communication tool to interact with customers.

Document Portal can be used to share a client care pack with the customer for example, with the opportunity to get the digitally signed documents back the same day in a protected, secure environment.  The law firm creates the document portfolio which includes intuitive, editable forms and digital signature facility, provided by DocuSign.  It provides a secure environment for client data as well as streamlining the conveyancing process without the need to meet clients in person.

How has the market changed since Lockdown has eased?

The positive news is that the property market is showing signs of improvement.  We can confirm that daily volumes of our searches during June have grown consistently week-on-week.  At the end of June 2020 our searches were up by 135% compared to May.  This represents just over 50% of the volume of searches ordered for June last year.

If business continues on this trajectory, we anticipate we will be back to full volume within just two weeks.   However, it’s hard to tell if this bounce back effect is set to continue as there are so many factors at play.  Ask me again in a month’s time and we will have a much clearer picture!

This pattern of improved activity is reflected by Savills Research who recently stated:

“We are currently seeing a release of pent-up demand, which may trigger a brief spike in transactions in England over the summer.”

“We expect transactions to return to normal levels by 2021 Q3, followed by a year with more transactions than normal as we work through the pent up demand that accumulated during 2020.”

Certainly, in the short term I believe we can be cautiously optimistic.  Our clients continue to report they are busy.

Balkar Bains, Managing Director, Lawrence Hamblin Ltd

“Since the lockdown has eased, we have seen increasing numbers of conveyancing enquiries.  Instructions are also growing.  This is good news and we hope the opening up of the market can continue to ensure transaction levels get back to previous levels as soon as safely possible.”

What are the barriers to adopting technology?

Remote working is certainly set to continue for the foreseeable future and so embracing the right technology now could be a key factor for long term success.  However, the barriers to adopting new technology which were in place prior to Lockdown are still there for some firms.  Namely:  the risks involved in using new technology, concerns around cyber security, disruption in working practices and lack of IT expertise.

As experts in law, also being an expert in tech is not necessarily a given.  Staff will need to be trained and learn new ways of working and this degree of change can be understandably difficult to accept and address.

To succeed with technology and unlock the potential power it offers, we advise introduction as an evolutionary approach, rather than a complete revolution.  Managing the digitalisation of elements in the conveyancing chain in ‘bite sized chunks’ rather than an ‘unwieldy’ whole is likely to be much more manageable.  This is why we’ve developed simple solutions to tackle different elements of the conveyancing chain:  from our web quote tool, to online search ordering to secure remote exchange of documentation.

By taking on different tools gradually, the overall process can be modified.  Over time, trust is built in new technology as staff see different parts working for various processes.   Ultimately, we believe it will then be possible to ‘join up the dots’ to create a complete digital conveyancing process with minimal disruption and greater success.  In short, we provide the IT expertise and training, so law firms don’t have to!

The good news is that working remotely during the Lockdown has meant firms have needed to embrace technology and they have overcoming some of the common barriers.

Property Week conducted a survey recently which reported: 

“63.1% of respondents stated that technology had “played a major role” in enabling them to maintain productivity levels during the Covid-19 lockdown and almost 93% of respondents said their experience of using technology during the pandemic was highly positive or mostly positive.”

With a further “48% of respondents said they had already “increasingly begun to trial new technology” as a result of Covid-19”.  The door is now open for firms to start feeling the benefits of tech by partnering with trusted experts in the legal sector, such as poweredbypie, who can offer relevant, practical advice and solutions.

How can law firms learn more?

We have developed a free ‘returning to work’ webinar which provides tips and information about how technology can be harnessed for remote working.  Our aim is to help legal professionals become more comfortable with tech and ensure it’s working for them.  Some of these tips are straight forwards like how to blur or choose your background when using video calls or some content covers how to take advantage of secure online communication tools for example.

We are always interested in finding out about more barriers law firms are finding with remote working and so we are inviting legal staff to take our quick online survey into attitudes on this topic:  The responses can help us develop further solutions to meet the needs of law firms and provide information to help legal professionals overcome their most common IT challenges.

By working together to harness technology for the best outcome for law firms, we can also take steps towards taming the Black Swan that is COVID-19.  By strengthening systems, we can help protect against other future unpredictable events.

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This article was submitted to be published by poweredbypie A 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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