Internet Newsletter for Lawyers
May/June 2004, by Delia Venables

Debate on the "Pay as you Convey" model for conveyancing online
by Martin MacDuff, of ConveyanceLink and
Dominic Cullis, of Easy Convey

Brief Introduction by Delia Venables

E-conveyancing and case tracking online were covered in this newsletter quite extensively in the first three issues of 2003.

Assuming that the articles are on your system, or that you are accessing this directly on the web, you will find the articles as follows:

Case Tracking Online by Delia Venables, January/February 2003
Suppliers Offering Case Tracking Online, May/June 2003
Note on Case Studies, March/April 2003:
Note on Case Studies, May/June 2003
and then the actual case studies.....
Axxia - Morton Fraser by Ian Thomson, May/June 2003
DPS - Stanley Tee by Ian Fretwell, May/June 2003
EasyConvey - Chartahouse by Nick Hawkins, May/June 2003
Linetime - LCL Collections by Ian Longbottom, May/June 2003
Norwel - Lees Lloyd Whitley by Tony Nicholls, May/June 2003
Pericom - Franklins by Michael Franklin, May/June 2003
SellersLink (now ConveyanceLink) - Bates & Partners by Matthew Clark, May/June 2003
AIM - AMS Law by Steve Williams, March/April 2003
Solicitec - Yuill + Kyle by Stephen Cowen, March/April 2003
Solicitec - Fitzpatricks by Tom Fitzpatrick, March/April 2003
Pracctice - Sykes Anderson by David Anderson, March/April 2003
Videss - Sills & Betteridge by Paul Cowen and Gary Phillips, March/April 2003
DIY - Wilson Nesbitt by Kieran Gilmurray, March/April 2003

All these suppliers, and most others, now provide software for case tracking online but to operate this facility on a firm's own website, with all the updating and security features required, is not a trivial undertaking. Smaller firms may not be able to do this.

To address this problem, several suppliers provide hosted facilities for the online tracking part of the conveyancing system, so the firm sends the summary information from their in-house case management system to the host, where the technically challenging part of the website operation is carried out.

Within this type of system, a key difference then emerges - some suppliers offer a "pay as you convey" option, whereby little or no initial cost is required, but an ongoing fee per conveyance is paid, and others require the firm to buy and install the software, and then provide the tracking part of the operation at a minimal cost.

I asked two suppliers - ConveyanceLink (previously known as SellersLink) and Easy Convey to write an article for me about how their systems worked and in particular, how they charge for these facilities. (Their respective websites are at www.conveyancelink.com and www.easyconvey.com).

Martin MacDuff of ConveyanceLink puts the case for "pay as you convey" as being an efficient and low cost (and low risk) way of providing these services and Dominic Cullis, of Easy Convey, argues that this is not good value for the firm and that buying and installing the necessary software in-house is cheaper in the long (and indeed medium) term.

Here are the articles.

ConveyanceLink - Offering "Pay as you Convey"
by Martin MacDuff

SellersLink Limited was incorporated in 2001, to bring the ConveyanceLink, www.conveyancelink.com, system to market, following several years of development. The two majority shareholders of the fast growing business are Malcolm York, Sales Director, and myself, Managing Director, and we intend to build a stable of products aimed at the key players in the legal and domestic property transaction market.

Case management providers have historically enjoyed a period in which they have been able to charge customers with high installation costs, over priced revisits and increased annual licenses without ever being brought to task on the quality of their product, or more importantly the service they provide in support of that. The “Pay-as-you-Convey” model from ConveyanceLink ensures high levels of customer satisfaction at an affordable price. The transparent pricing model provides reassurance to clients that the product delivery exceeds expectations and does not lock them in financially should it not work, unlike all other providers. We firmly attribute much of our recent success to our product and service commitment. To draw a true like with like comparison, all other providers should offer a money back guarantee on their set up charges.

AgentLink and the soon to be launched SurveyLink, have been designed in conjunction with ConveyanceLink with the aim of providing an electronic connection between all parties involved in the home moving process in advance of HIPS. AgentLink is aimed at estate agents and SurveyLink has been designed specifically with property surveyors in mind.

As market leaders in the provision of “Pay-as-you-Convey” software, ConveyanceLink is a comprehensive case management system, specifically designed for property lawyers. The program is presented in a similar fashion to Microsoft’s Outlook program making good use of tool bars and image icons, which assist users in navigating their way around the program with an easy to use format.

The program assists users throughout the transaction, from providing their clients with initial estimates, through to completion. It incorporates standard forms, letter precedents and billing documents and also provides an electronic link to NLIS channels, thereby reducing the administration at every stage of the process.

A number of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools including online tracking and text messaging are also provided by the system. As key milestones in the conveyance are achieved, text messages are automatically sent to the client’s mobile telephone. Both the online tracking and text messaging are fully integrated into the program and require no additional effort by the user. The progress log contained within the program forms the basis of a task list for the user, and also gets transferred to our secure website, where it can be viewed by the client at anytime, through a unique property reference number. Again, no extra effort is required to keep clients updated.

The program is loaded onto client PCs, across their office network, with the database being stored centrally on the client server. (Where a firm does not have a server, a lead PC is used). We operate a “Pay-as-you-Convey” system, based on volumes of transactions processed through the ConveyanceLink program. There are no annual license fees and no additional charges for telephone support or system upgrades. There are also no financial implications with regards to the number of PCs per office using the system.

We manage the ConveyanceLink website and administer all text message updates, both of which are generated each time a user uploads to the ConveyanceLink server. All personal or file sensitive information is retained by the users, not transferred to or stored by ConveyanceLink, therefore there are no additional Data Protection issues. The website only provides task specific notes and does not provide property or client sensitive information.

Most clients connect to the main ConveyanceLink system twice a day. Firstly following receipt of inbound mail containing contracts, searches etc and secondly in the afternoon when outgoing correspondence and other tasks have been sent or completed. This ensures the home mover is totally up-to-date whenever they choose to visit the website. The upload updates all open files, and via a broadband connection, takes a matter of seconds.

The ConveyanceLink system is currently being used by a cross section of law firms throughout the UK. The “Pay-as-you-Convey” model makes using ConveyanceLink attractive to firms of all sizes, from the dedicated property lawyer to multi-disciplined firms with several offices. As a result of the CRM tools within the program, many of the ConveyanceLink users have been successful in passing the fee per matter charge onto the home mover, and therefore the cost to each practice is nil. The per matter charge is £19.50.

Smaller firms have found that the ConveyanceLink system allows them to better manage activity peaks and troughs, with the efficiency gains the program offers allowing them to handle a greater volume of transactions during the traditionally busy periods with the same human resource. Larger firms are using the system to enable them to offer greater consistency in their service provision, and also as a control tool within the business. These firms, as with any size firm, also receive support in marketing their business to local estate agents to generate a greater volume of referral work via the agent link program.

The “Pay-as-you-Convey” payment model offers all firms, irrespective of their size, an affordable case management program. The system takes only two days to install with users able to implement the system immediately. Existing letter precedents, bills and templates are brought into the system at the point of installation, thereby retaining continuity of correspondence as the firm adopts the ConveyanceLink system.

The installation is managed over two days and costs the firm £1500.00. All follow up revisits are provided free of charge to each firm in exchange for the continued and regular use of the system. We place a high priority on the support provided to new users to ensure that the initial stages of installation and implementation go as smoothly as possible, with the minimum disruption to the business.

Clients are better able to mange the cash flow implications of using a case management system and can increase the number of users without incurring costs. Likewise, should there be a reduction in the number of matters proceeding, clients are not required to commit large sums based on the number of users, but rather the number of billable matters.

The latest version of the program, v7.0, launched at the Legal IT Show in February of this year, incorporates a number of additional features designed to offer enhanced functionality to our clients. All existing users will be updated free of charge to themselves providing them with greater functionality and improved technology in exchange for their continued use.

Having developed electronic links to the NLIS channels last year, we are now developing links to other software providers, enabling users to integrate the program with other core practice systems such as accounts packages as well as working towards PISCES.

Research conducted on our website indicates that home movers are expressing high levels of satisfaction with the SMS and online tracking. ConveyanceLink currently send over 5,000 SMS messages per day. Visits to our website, www.conveyancelink.com, peak three times during the day. Firstly in the morning as home movers are reviewing the previous day’s activity, secondly in the afternoon to review that day’s activity, and finally between 6.30pm and 9pm, when those with Internet access at home find it convenient to log on and review their transaction progress.

Martin MacDuff is Managing Director of ConveyanceLink, www.conveyancelink.com.
Email martin@conveyancelink.com.


Does the “Pay-As-You-Go” conveyancing case management model work?
by Dominic Cullis, of Easy Convey.

Before answering this question, we need to first look at the conveyancing market place, the changes that take place and how a service and software meets these demands.

The conveyancing market is changing at a dramatic rate. Over the years that the Easy Convey CASA™ product has been implemented in firms of solicitors and licensed conveyancers, there have been several significant changes. Last year we saw the introduction of the Land Registration Act 2002 and a change to Stamp Duty Land Tax. In 2001, the NLIS service was launched with all three Channels being integrated into CASA™. Every two years or so, changes are made to Land Registry forms, again these have and must continue to be reflected in our software. The Land Registry Electronic Conveyancing Task Force are currently hard at work on making significant improvements in the way practices will be able to deal with land/property transactions in the future. This along with other changes will be integrated within the Easy Convey Electronic Conveyancing Solution.

In the mid to late nineties, e-mail was rarely used as a means of communication amongst “high street” law firms, now it is common place. Today, mobile phones are the primary means of communication between a law firm and their client. SMS Text messaging is a completely integrated part of the Easy Convey Electronic Conveyancing Solution. We would have been laughed at if this had appeared in the early versions of CASA™. For over four years, internet services including Track A Matter™ for obtaining transaction progress and electronic fee estimates and instructions via the On line L@wyer Instruction™ service have been part of the solution.

In providing a specialist e-conveyancing case management tool to the legal profession, Easy Convey looked at the various methods our software and services could be acquired. Particularly with consideration to the regular changes we have already discussed. First and foremost, the software and services had to be affordable to the smaller firms, whether sole practitioners or partnerships with fewer than ten fee earners. We were also keen to provide choice to our customers and decided that our solution would be made available on a purchase basis with annual licence fees and on a rental basis. A “Pay-As-You-Go” model was also created to make the solution viable for a firm that practiced in, for example, the company and commercial field of law and who were keen to provide a conveyancing service to the officers and directors of the companies for whom they acted.

Purchasing a licence for the software and then paying a nominal annual licence fee thus ensuring the software is always kept up-to-date seemed to be the best option. Smaller firms are often unable to commit to a capital purchase, so a rental option was made available. This was calculated to reflect the cost of purchasing the initial licence, the annual licence fees and telephone support throughout the term of the agreement. An attractive option particularly for sole practitioners.

However the software and services are provided, we must ensure that our own future is secured with regular income so that we continue to exist to implement the changes to the software law firms so obviously require. Without this security of future income, we could not provide our clients with the guarantee that we will be there in the future to ensure the software is always kept current.

How do the various payment methods compare?

Consider a three user installation of CASA™. To purchase, including the annual licence fees and telephone support for three years the cost of ownership to the firm would be £5,006 over a three year period. Renting the software costs £225 per month.

The Track-A-Matter™ service is provided only on a per transaction basis, because firms may not choose to publish every matter. It is however, normal for the firm to pass the £5 charge on to their client. Let us say that the average “high street” firm process around sixty matters per month through to completion, therefore, Track A Matter™ would cost £3,600 per annum.

Let us now compare the above with the “Pay-As-You-Go” method. The above service provided on this basis at, say, £15 per matter would cost the firm £10,800 per annum and £32,400 over the three years.

Here is a table showing the cost of ownership; the number of completions per month are shown along the top with the different payment methods down the side.

Payment Method

14

40

60

100

500

1,000

Purchase

7,526

12,206

15,806

23,006

95,006

185,006

Rental

10,620

15,300

18,900

26,100

98,100

188,100

Pay-As-You-Go

7,560

21,600

32,400

54,000

270,000

540,000

These figures speak for themselves. Unless a firm is completing on fewer than fourteen matters per month then “Pay-As-You-Go” is prohibitively expensive. Yet it is marketed to firms as being a more cost-effective method of payment than so called expensive “up-front” software costs and annual licence fees. “Pay-As-You-Go” can only be viable for a firm where conveyancing represents a small part of a larger practice. A firm existing solely upon income from conveyancing and completing on fewer than fourteen matters per month is unlikely to require a computerised solution.

In reality, the cost of ownership of CASA™ including Track-A-Matter™ doesn’t actually increase with the number of matters since the on-line services are usually paid for by the client. Therefore over a three year period a purchase would cost £5,006 and renting the software would amount to £8,100. Even if the five pound Track-A-Matter™ cost is absorbed by the firm, the overall cost is still lower than “Pay-As-You-Go”.

In conclusion, a combination of purchasing software, paying annual licence fees and internet tracking plus text messaging on an as required basis is the most cost effective. Renting a solution will always cost more over time than purchasing because the cost of finance has to be covered. And finally, Pay-As-You-Go is the most expensive means of acquiring a solution because there is no security for future income to the organisation providing the service.

I ask you to decide…

Does the “Pay-As-You-Go” conveyancing case management model work?

Dominic Cullis is Managing Director of Easy Convey Limited, www.easyconvey.com.
Email dominic@easyconvey.com.

The easyconvey.com Electronic Conveyancing solution was a runner up for the Society for Computers & Law 2003 Award for the Most Outstanding Application of Information Technology to the Law in the UK and Ireland.

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