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18. Christmas Confessions of a cyber conveyancer

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In my articles this year, I’ve spent most of the time explaining that despite our very best efforts, when it comes to technology, sometimes things go wrong.  Whether it’s misbehaving power supplies, software glitches, or just weird stuff, one thing is clear.

Technology really is a cruel mistress.

That said, I’m sticking with my mantra, that despite all that, it really is here to save us.  However, I know that some people disagree with this; thinking seems to come from two places;

Firstly, the software has been put in, and people tried to use it and found that it made things more difficult than before, so they stopped using it.  See – technology doesn’t help.

Alternatively, people have to deal with law firms who employ people with limited knowledge but with access to basic Case Management Systems (CMS’s).  ( Believe me – I’ve seen lots of CMS’s and most are dreadful – don’t believe the hype of artificial intelligence engines raising enquiries – this stuff just doesn’t exist.)  The software doesn’t help these people give better answers, so the argument goes – see – technology doesn’t solve legal problems

But as we sashay towards the conveyancer’s favourite time of year, it seemed a good idea to look back at what revolutions have taken place in the aftermath of the pandemic that apparently changed the way we do conveyancing.

Not a particularly rosy picture

So while it seemed a good idea, in reality, despite those fabulously animated articles on LinkedIn, when it comes to a technology revolution, with one exception, in 2023, we’ve seen no barricades being stormed.

I mean, electronic signatures are great and all that, but it’s a minor change and it’s been around for years.  We carried out the first electronic transfer deed a couple of years ago, and it was great, but it didn’t set the world on fire, as it should have done.

I’m sorry, but I just cannot get excited about electronic onboarding.  Government websites have had online form filling for a long time now – putting one on a website is not exactly a cause for breaking open the Revolutionary Champagne.  Creating a fillable PDF takes a couple of hours and asking clients to email scanned copies of their passports, hardly warrants renting out China White to celebrate.

Then there’s all the talk about data interoperability standards, which sounds nice but is just that – a standard.  These are nothing new – the PISCES framework tried that twenty years ago before no one used it so it went away again.  Maybe they’ll start applying a Blockchain standard as well, but that’s tricky because everyone wants their own.  We’re best “waiting and seeing” on that little number.

From what I can see, the only genuine change we’ve seen in the actual process has been with money movement.  Now, although it was just a remortgage, we’ve seen some Australian toes being dipped into uncharacteristically cold northern European waters, with a real-life settlement directly through the Bank of England rather than through a law firm’s client account.

So that’s ONE process change brought about by technology.  Better get back to those barricades.

So what technology can be used next year?

It’s that time of year when people love making random guesses about the future – some call them forecasting, and I call them “A Total Waste of Time”.  After all, as lawyers, how many times have clients asked you for your predictions on a case, to which, the usual response is, “Do I look like I have a crystal ball?”

I’m not going to start any navel gazing, but there is technology around today that people should really start to make an effort to use next year.

Firstly, please, please, please can lawyers start accepting electronically signed deeds – we’ve never got a law firm to accept one after the first fanfare two years ago – they ARE less risky than a wet signature, so please start accepting them.

Secondly, and whilst I’m sure this won’t make me popular with suppliers, please stop using DX and post where possible.  Email really is fine.  You don’t need to post that contract pack anymore.

Remember that multi-function device that you leased – there’s a clue in the name – it’s not just a big printer.  Just get someone to scan every bit of paper, and you’ll never look back.

Finally, most people have Microsoft Word or equivalent – please create a blank document and copy your enquiries into it, along with the responses from the other side. You can just email that document back and forth – it’s really easy, but it would make all our lives a lot easier.

That’s all for this year

Apparently, my articles have struck a chord with readers which is great to see.  I do believe that technology is the future – we just need to keep an open mind, work out where we can use what we’ve got today, and make all our lives just that little bit easier.


Peter Ambrose is the owner and Managing Director of The Partnership – a boutique legal provider specialising in the delivery of transparent and ultra-efficient conveyancing services.

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