The following extract is taken from a Access All Areas Virtual Conference session delivered by Mike Connelly, Legal Bricks Founder and Commercial Director at Access Legal.
This article covers modern conveyancing and how to utilize technology to assist in doing it in a simpler and easier way. The article also looks at some of the stats that have evolved in the digital economy and explores how law firms can embrace technology to create a more functional and frictionless process in the conveyancing journey.
The digital economy and today’s consumer
The first thing I always speak to law firms about, to assess and understand their belief in conveyancing, is whether it’s a friend or a foe. So, I’ll put this question to you. Where does technology sit within your organisation, and could you use it to better advantage?
It’s always something to think about when you explore the diversity and the way that your firm works. When we talk about this, the first thing I’d like to do is examine some facts. The below statistics are from an industry report:
- 79% of consumers see the ability to work remotely with a lawyer as an important factor when choosing one
- 41% of growing firms are more likely to use client portals. So around about four in ten firms
- 71% of law firms are prioritizing online interaction over impulse and engagements.
- 37% of growing firms are more likely to use online payment services.
Why is this important? The key element to this is to show the shift in dynamic from an in-person to a digital dialog. We all see technology daily. We use it in many ways. And to understand how this can assist your law firm is essential in you growing your practice.
It’s critical to understand your client and how they engage digitally. A great place to start is to look at how consumers manage their money. In 2022, an estimated 93% of the UK adult population will be using some form of online banking. That’s nine out of ten people using some form of online banking. When we compare that with the trends back in 2005, we can see that just over one in four people were using an online banking solution. Now, let’s take it a step further back and look at the inception of the Internet. In 1999, Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the Internet, two years later the first website was launched and by the end of 1993, there were a total of 623 active websites. We now have around about 1.14 billion websites globally with around 200 million active websites.
Another key day in history is 27th January 2007, when Steve Jobs revealed the first ever Apple iPhone running on a 2G network. This was something that would change the way that we work, the way that we live, the way that we use technology, and fast forward to 2022, we now have 5G in the UK, with some countries already working on their 6G networks.
Speaking with law firms and looking at the utilization and the mass adoption of the Internet today, proves the overwhelming consensus that people do want technology. However, there is always a concern around the adoption. Will people understand it? Will people grasp what we’re asking them to do? We can see that 46.6 million people (about twice the population of New York) every day use the Internet in the UK, and that’s a higher internet penetration than they have in America. Some further internet usage statistics include:
- 96% of UK households use the Internet
- 92% of the UK have access to the internet through a smartphone
- There’s roughly 5.5 billion unique mobile phone users
- 7 billion people using some form of social media
- Every 60 seconds, the Internet supports 69 million messages being sent through either WhatsApp or Facebook
- There’s $1.6 million spent online every minute
- 197 million emails being sent every minute
These stats really resonated with me and show clearly how important a digitally connected journey is for consumers today. So, how does this data help us in streamlining the conveyancing process? Conveyancing is an extremely manual and cumbersome process. It’s been around for a long, long time and we have a tradition of liking to do things in an auditable way. For years, the conveyancing process has used email, pen and paper with written signatures, printing documents and sending them in the post, etc. Can we better embrace technology, and can we streamline the process by combining the two things together? My answer to you is yes, we can. We can create efficiencies, we can save time, and we can create those solutions. An evolution for law firms and a closer alignment to the expectation of today’s client to provide a slicker, quicker and easier journey.
What do conveyancers need to meet client expectations?
In my opinion, you need two key elements. Firstly, you need an online quotation system. Secondly, you need a cloud based client portal. These alongside an integrated case management system, or conveyancing software, can join up the moving parts of the conveyancing process and create a streamlined, quick, end-to-end journey for both the conveyancer and the client. Furthermore, these integrated solutions could also make sharing information with Estate Agents, Mortgage Lenders, and other stakeholders, easy and transparent.
This centralised data source, or platform, not only facilitates the sharing of information in real-time, but also streamlines communications and connects everything back to the same case so everyone involved is fully informed and up to date with next steps, reducing your overall transaction times.
What was very evident to us throughout the pandemic, was that transaction times have increased from what was the typical norm of around 8 to 10 weeks. It’s now been going over 20 weeks in some cases, for the past 12 to 18 months, and it’s not showing a great deal of sign of reducing.
The Internet is a powerful source, but it must be used correctly. With the ‘always on’ or on-demand culture we now live in, we need to allow people to complete the information and share it with us anytime and on any device. Allowing your clients to obtain quotes from your website, to instruct you digitally and to message you securely through an app, all support the consumer of today. Furthermore, this digital ecosystem which you and your clients use can be wrapped with a security blanket to protect against cyber-attacks.
Your digital footprint expands far greater than most people will ever know. A secure portal, utilising things like Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) and biometric identity verification, is the easiest and most secure way to protect your client and your firm.
I was at a conference recently and I took a sound bite from Matthew Hill, CEO of Legal Services Board, and I found the information he shared really resonated with me. Matthew said law firms should be providing technology for their clients that provides access to services, enables easier use, and commands public trust. For me, these three things combined just encapsulate the market. If we can provide services to our clients that enable use, provide services in an easy way, and build trust, imagine how powerful that can be to a consumer when choosing a law firm to work with!
Online automated conveyancing quotation tool
Having the ability for your clients to receive quotations directly from your website is essential in today’s age. Our experience with other service providers, such as Amazon, means we expect a fast and slick online journey and the ability to get prices and quotes instantly rather than waiting for someone to call us back. Today’s consumer expects things on-demand so if you’re not using an automated online quotation tool on your website, I guarantee you’re losing clients.
Furthermore, your online quotation tool can sync with your other conveyancing software and legal case management software which allows for automated actions, triggers for tasks and can create a case with pre-populated information. Imagine the time saved from not having to go into your emails to review quotation requests then copy information across to your case management system, create a quotation document, write and send an email to the prospective client and upload documents back to the system.
The online quotation tool we’ve developed allows a quote to be generated and shared with a prospect in just 60 seconds and it’s completely configurable to your needs and can include all your fees, HMRC fees, Land Registry fees and Land Transaction Tax. Our tool is also able to be easily updated into your branding and use your logos, adding the professional look and feel to the quote.
Digital client portal
From an organization level, if you use the quotation tool with a client portal, you can manage your pipeline, stats, conversion and processes. This is powerful because you’re looking at the start of the journey and progressing into the client domain, and it’s all being tracked and logged in your legal case management system. This connected digital ecosystem is the way modern conveyancing firms operate.
Like the quotation tool, the client portal we provide can include bespoke branding in line with your website. It is also mobile, tablet and PC responsive, making it easy to use no matter what device the client is using. Client portals are becoming increasingly important in the legal sector and one industry report  found that 41% of growing law firms are likely to be using them.
Must have features in a client portal
E-signatures up until a couple of years ago were nice to have, but I think for most law firms nowadays they’re essential, and the process is growing. The benefit for the client to be able to sign documents quickly and easily from anywhere, improve experience through convenience, and the law firm can continue progressing cases quicker rather than having to wait for a client to come into the office. Furthermore, with encryption and digital technologies, the storing of data, geo location analysis, the efficacy of the information that’s contained within an e-signature, is far more secure than a wet signature.
Additional security services such as secure messaging are also becoming the norm and something clients expect, and in some cases, prefer to interact with. This communication tool is a great way to store transact data with your clients knowing that it’s encrypted and the sharing that information no longer be a concern for both parties. This also stops the headache of mountains of emails clogging up your inbox!
We have calculated that through our in-built client journeys using of document sharing and completion, Biometric ID checks, secure messaging, e-signature and more brilliant features in the client portal, we’re able to reduce conveyancing transaction times by up to 30%.
HM Land Registry are looking to digitise the processes
HM Land Registry are making great strides when it comes to digitising some of the processes they’re involved with. They’re looking at the data they hold and how they can share that data with their partners. An example of this progression is the move to digital AP1s in November 2022, meaning all applications must be submitted electronically through the digital registration service. They’re also working on the digitization of the land charges where they’ve already digitized about 50 of the 350 local authorities, with the rest expected to be done over the next few years.
Throughout the industry, and all other sectors too, there’s more Open Data being shared through digital APIs. Are the HM Land Registry moving towards being the leader in this space for the sector? Possibly! Even so, we should all consider how we can better use the data we have to digitise processes, increase efficiencies, and improve customer experiences.
What are the benefits to digitising the conveyancing processes?
Firstly, you can mitigate data entry. We all appreciate that the more times we enter the data, the more opportunities we have for errors. Secondly, it allows you and your firm to work from a central data source, a single source of truth and a system which allows for greater accuracy, cyber security and integration. This sort of approach facilitates the on-demand approach discussed earlier in this article, allowing data and information to be shared in real-time and making managing client engagements and workload much easier for your staff. Linking client portals, your website enquiries, CRM, case management and other conveyancing software, means automated reminders and updates can be sent to clients to help progress cases more quickly with less human intervention, so your fee earners can do more meaningful work and your clients are happier!
To be clear, technology is the facilitator, but humans are the innovators. We must understand that we build the technology and adapt it. But as an organisation, you must understand that without your team, information technology doesn’t work for you. Involve staff in defining the tech strategy, gain feedback and showcase the value to them. The key is to discourage your teams from working in silos and integrate your technology stack, and that’s one of the things Access Legal can really support. We can collaborate with you to understand your strategy, and which solutions you’re currently using and potentially need. We can adapt, we can create processes, we can then advise as to how we go through a journey and assist you in getting to that golden chalice, which is quicker transaction times, less fall throughs and more profitability for your firm.
I conclude this article with a question for you, is it time for your firm to explore the next steps in technology and modernise your conveyancing process? If so, contact us today and one of our experts will be on hand to understand your firm’s needs and what you’re wanting to achieve moving forward.
Mike Connelly is Commercial Director at Access Legal.